Friday, November 20, 2009

"Is TV Guide a Book?" "No." "Son of Sniglet?" "No." "Katherine Hepburn's Me?" "No!" "Oh, I suck..."

2009 Reading Competition

Yup, still alive.


1. Outliers | Malcolm Gladwell (299 pages) | Grade: C+
2. Boys Will Be Boys | Jeff Pearlman (365 pages) | B
3. Acme Novelty Library #19 | Chris Ware (80 pages*) | A
4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao | Junot Diaz (340 pages) | A
5. Rome 1960 | David Maraniss (460 pages) | B+
6. The Reckoning | David Halberstam (733 pages) | A
7. Generation Kill | Evan Wright (370 pages) | B
8. Friday Night Lights | Buzz Bissinger (400 pages) | B+
9. Pictures at a Revolution | Mark Harris (496 pages) | A+
10. The Withdrawal Method | Pasha Malla (321 pages) | B+
11. Long Lost | Harlan Coben (374 pages) | D
12. Liar's Poker | Michael Lewis (249 pages) | B
13. McCain's Promise | David Foster Wallace (138 pages) | A
14. The Long Walk | Stephen King (380 pages) | A
15. The White Tiger | Aravind Adiga (276 pages) | A
16. The Closers | Michael Connelly (406 pages) | B+
17. The Book of Basketball | Bill Simmons (702 pages) | B-
18. The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town | John Grisham (438 pages) | C-


America America | Ethan Canin (450 pages) | C+
2. Outliers | Malcolm Gladwell (299 pages) | B-
3. Lester B. Pearson | Andrew Coyne (174 pages) | B+

4. All The King's Men | Robert Warren (609 pages) | A
5. The Gamble | Thomas E. Ricks (325 pages) | A
6. What's The Matter With Kansas | Thomas Frank (251 pages) | B
7. Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime | Eliot A. Cohen (248 pages) | A
8. Churchill: A Life | Sir Martin Gilbert (959 pages) | A+
9. The Future of Liberalism | Alan Wolfe (288 pages) | B
10. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs | Chuck Klosterman (272 pages) | B
11. The Blind Side | Michael Lewis (352 pages) | A-
12. Friday Night Lights | Buzz Bissinger (400 pages) | A


1. The Inner Game of Tennis | Timothy Gallwey (134 pages) | A
2. The Last Shot | Darcy Frey (240 pages) | A+
3. The Road | Cormac McCarthy (287 pages) | A+

4. Outliers | Malcolm Gladwell (299 pages) | C+
5. The Last Season | Phil Jackson (304 pages) | B-
The Sunset Limited | Cormac McCarthy (160 pages)| B-
7. The Education of a Coach | David Halberstam (288 pages)| B+
8. Downtown Owl | Chuck Klosterman | (288 pages)| B

9. Can I Keep My Jersey? | Paul Shirley | (336 pages)| C-
10. Then We Came to The End | Joshua Ferris | (416 pages)| B+

11. Friday Night Lights | H.G. Bissinger | (400 pages)| A++
12. Strokes of Genius | L. Jon Wertheim | (208 pages)| B
13. Who's Your City | Richard Florida | ( 345 pages)| C
14. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men | David Foster Wallace (336 pages)| A

Brief reviews may follow (though I wouldn't count on it...)

* = will not be included in final page count.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Walter, I love you, but sooner or later, you're going to have to face the fact you're a goddamn moron..."

The Best Movies of Our Lives, Part Four: 1998 - 2003

See also: part one (1979-1985), part two (1986-1991), and part three (1992-1997).

Shuk's picks

1998....The Big Lebowski
: Well, obviously. One of the most compulsively rewatchable movies of all time. I've always been struck by how some filmmakers just get into grooves, not unlike baseball players. The Coen brothers made some solid films and had a lot of indie cred through the early 90's, and then boom, Fargo and Lebowski, back-to-back. Talk about a powerful duo. Lebowski wasn't actually a notable hit upon its release, but it became a big cult favourite and now, over a decade later, I think we can all agree that John Goodman was royally jobbed out of an Oscar. I could go on and on about the script alone, which I still think is the Coens' best just due to all of the layers it works on at the same time. It's kind of a mystery, but not really, yet still has the complexity of classic film noir while spoofing the genre at the same time. Along the way there's also about a half-dozen scenes that are as funny as any ever filmed. Fun fact: when I saw this for a screening in first-year film class, people gave Steve Buscemi's first appearance a raucous ovation.

Kyle: excellent selection....and very nearly my own. Agreed re: Goodman (it was a tour-de-force performance, though surely not as memorable as actual winner...James Coburn in Affliction?!? Good Lord!). I feel like Turturro's two-minute cameo has to be mentioned--hysterical (see part of it here). Three bits of TBL that I love: (1) that most of The Dude's clothes actually belonged to Jeff Bridges; (2) that Donny (Buscemi) bowls a strike every single time, except for the scene immediately before he dies; and (3) (which I just discovered) The Dude never bowls in the film. (Also: Jacob from Lost is one of the thugs--very cool.)

Mark: Those tidbits are awesome. Apparently the Coens thought about making a Jesus spinoff film, before realizing that it's hard to make an egomaniacal pederast into anything remotely sympathetic. The only positive of James Coburn winning an Oscar is that when I'm doing the "name the best supporting actors" quiz on Sporcle and type in 'Coburn,' I also get Charles Coburn's win in the 1940's, which I wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

Runners-up.....(I'm cheating just a bit and adding six runners-up instead of the usual four since I just couldn't decide. Consider this just a half-use of my extension.)

Pleasantville: Don't let the high-concept premise --- two teens (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon, both of whom pre-real fame) are somehow zapped into the universe of a 1950's sitcom --- fool you. This is a surprisingly deep and endlessly interesting film. It's bolstered by gorgeous photography that makes full use of the black-and-white-turns-to-color gimmick. I actually wrote about this film in an essay about the use of colour in movies back in school and, since I racked up an A-minus, I have a major soft spot for ol' P-Ville. In addition to Reese and Tobey, you've also got character actor stalwarts like JT Walsh, Jeff Daniels, William H. Macy, and even fucking Don Knotts (!) adding some credibility to the occasion. I'm a little stunned that Joan Allen didn't garner at least an Oscar nomination, especially since this movie came out right in the middle of the Academy's 'we love Joan Allen' period in the mid-1990's.

Run Lola Run: I'm a little hesitant to put RLR on the list since its quality tricked me into a lifetime of thinking that Tom Tykwer was a good director. Oh, the hours I wasted watching 'Perfume' or 'The International.' But, proving that a broken clock is right twice a day, Tykwer struck gold with the always-exciting Lola Rennt. I've used 'Schisse' as a curse word ever since reading it in a novel in sixth grade, but after RLR, I stretched it out to 'Schisse Manni,' thus making RLR rank surprisingly high on the list of my most oft-quoted films. Ah, profanity.

Shakespeare In Love: The 'Shakespeare In Love vs. Saving Private Ryan' debate is one of the quintessential apples vs. oranges examples of the difficulty of picking a Best Picture every year at the Oscars. The feeling in the aftermath of the 1998 Oscars was that 'Private Ryan' got hosed, but honestly, Shakespeare In Love is the better movie. (It also saved the Academy the embarrassment of awarding Best Picture to a movie starring Vin Diesel.) It's strange that Joseph Fiennes basically dropped off the face of the earth after a starring role in a major film like this.

A Simple Plan: Three men find a bagful of money in a field. Complications ensue. That's all you really need to know. ASP is classic psychological film noir that stands up with the best of Hitchcock or Highsmith. This is Sam Raimi's best movie that doesn't feature Alfred Molina in metal tentacles.

There's Something About Mary: It still holds up! Woo-hoo! It would've been a shame if this teenage classic had suddenly become dated. If anything, it might be even more relevant now given that it features Brett Favre unable to let go of the past. There's not much more to be said about the movie other than it's hilarious, and that Matt Dillon hits a home run. If there's one thing different about watching TSAM now, it's that Dillon's performance is the funniest thing in the movie.

Zero Effect: As mentioned before, I'm a sucker for a good mystery, and Zero Effect is one of the best mysteries of the last decade. Bill Pullman plays an eccentric detective, Ben Stiller is his exasperated assistant, Kim "Sawyer's babymama on LOST" Dickens is the sorta-femme fatale, and in spite of these big names, this might be the most obscure film on either of our lists. Literally NOBODY I know has ever even heard of this one.

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Gods and Monsters, The Thin Red Line, Out Of Sight (though I have read the original Elmore Leonard novel)

Kyle: I saw Zero Effect a few years ago, possibly on your recommendation, and recall enjoying it quite a bit....though it still seems curious to me that someone had enough confidence in Bill Pullman to make him a leading man (possible angle: "he was semi-believable as Commander-in-Chief in Independence Day!" Note: this will be the only mention of ID4 on these lists.) Good call, too, with Run Rola Run and Shakespeare in Love (which nearly made my list. I remember wanting to hate it, because I was annoyed that SPR didn't win Best Pic, watching it, then begrudgingly acknowledging that it was pretty damn good. And, yeah, what the hell happened to Joseph Fiennes? He was terrific here.)

As for Pleasantville, I had extremely high expectations, and couldn't help being very let down. Some of it was well executed (the whole basketball team never missing because, well, they never missed during their--limited--screentime on the show? Very cool), but a lot of it felt pretty heavy-handed to me. Here's a question, was it a meta-commentary on Director Gary Ross's part to make the issues so black and white in the movie? Like, wouldn't it have been more satisfying if William H. Macy was right even once during the 124 minutes? I believe at one point I actually blurted out "we fucking get it! It's a metaphor for racism!" (which was awkward, since I was watching it with my parents...). And I maintain that the scene where the tree explodes in color as Joan Allen climaxes in the bathtub is almost unbearably stupid. That said, I'd really like to read your paper--do you still have it?

Mark: I still have it around somewhere, probably on the computer in my parents' house. Hope you like converting Corel WordPerfect files! Joan Allen climaxing to a burning tree is still less stupid than Eric Bana climaxing to images of the Munich Massacre....I swear, Kyle, if Munich is on your 2005 list....

1999....The Talented Mr. Ripley: Here's a movie that has been lost to the sands of time in spite of the big-name cast behind it. Patricia Highsmith is pretty much the master of unsettling psychological thrillers, writing a number of classic suspense novels including Strangers On A Train and the Tom Ripley novels. Matt Damon gives the best performance of any of the actors (Dennis Hopper, Barry Pepper and John Malkovich) who have portrayed Ripley on film since he gives Tom just enough of an in-over-his-head edge to balance his natural sneakiness that keeps the character's fate in question. Hopper-as-Ripley, for instance, was so smart and composed that you never believed he was in any danger. Damon-as-Ripley seems to always be one step away from being found out. If you never thought much of Matt Damon's acting skills, check this movie out and prepare to have your mind blown.

Kyle: This is your only pick in part four that I vigorously disagree with, mostly because, at best, Ripley is half a movie. Up until the point where (SPOILER ALERT) Damon kills Jude Law (roughly an hour in, if I recall correctly), the movie is outstanding (that scene in particular is shot so perfectly), but it quickly goes downhill after that. As much as I like Matt Damon, I felt like Hoffman was acting circles around him whenever they were onscreen together...and the whole thing had a Brady Bunch feel to it (see, in particular, the episode where Peter inadvertently schedules two dates on the same night--in the Brady household!--and has to juggle both of them, including changing his outfit each time he changes girls. Season 5, episode 18 "Two Petes in a Pod." If you watch it, I swear you'll like Ripley about 15% less.)

Also: have you seen all the other Ripley flicks? I think the only one I watched was Ripley's Game (with Malkovich), a direct-to-DVD (or, in the alternative, in theatres for approximately nine seconds) job that was jaw-droppingly dull. I think I actually fell asleep 30 minutes in, woke up, remembered why I'd fallen asleep, then passed out until the credits rolled. Am I being too harsh?

Mark: I've seen the Malkovich and Hopper ones, and neither are any good. Comparing TTMR to a Brady Bunch episode? Harsh. And really, I like Damon a lot too, but I hardly expect him to put on a clinic when it's in a scene with Hoffman.

Runners-up.....extension number three! Er, three and a half!.....

American Beauty: What a weird choice as Best Picture. Not that AB isn't a great movie or anything, but man, it's strange how every once in a while the Academy seizes on an out-there choice that just goes whole-hog in giving it every Oscar under the sun. Just a spectacularly well-cast movie, with almost every actor turning in the second-best performance of their careers. (Spacey: Usual Suspects, Bening: Grifters, Janney: West Wing, Cooper: Adaptation, Birch: Ghost for Wes Bentley and Mena Suvari, yeah, this was definitely their best work.)

Being John Malkovich: Back in 2000 I was having a depressing weekend. A girl was involved, I ate a lot of ice cream, it was a long story. Whereas some people might watch a fluffy comedy to get their mind off things, I instead watched Being John Malkovich, and frankly, my mood went from blue to WTF in about a five-minute span. It takes balls just to conceive of a movie like this, let alone actually make it, but Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze produced one of the great surreal comedies of our time. You've got all of the body-swapping, mind-bending stuff bookended by the hilarious story of the 7 1/2 floor and the inexplicable Malkovich/Charlie Sheen friendship. ("Ma-sheen!" "Malkotraz!") Who gives the best performance in the movie, oddly enough? John Malkovich.

Election: The Hillary Clinton = Tracy Flick joke was made by roughly 850,000 different people during the 2008 presidential campaign. (Does this make Barack Obama into Chris Klein? That comparison doesn't really work. For one thing, I'm pretty sure Obama has never tried to seduce a woman by saying 'Suck me, beautiful.' Joe Biden, however, almost certainly has used this line.) Anyway, Election is a terrific satire and notable for being one of the few times I've ever actually enjoyed Matthew Broderick in a movie.

Galaxy Quest: As an old Star Trek fan myself back in my teenage days, this couldn't have been a more pitch-perfect satire of sci-fi shows, and yet it also serves as a tribute to nerdy fandom itself. I actually almost ranked it #1 for the year. The cast, impressive in 1999 is even more impressive today given the future credits of most of the supporting cast; you've also got the likes of Enrico Colantoni and Rainn Wilson as aliens, Justin Long as the geeky Galaxy Quest uber-fan and even Robin 'Ethan Rayne on Buffy' Sachs as the villain, totally unrecognizable under about a quart of makeup. And that's not even counting main cast actors like Sam Rockwell and Tony Shalhoub who went on to larger successes in the wake of this movie. And, last but not least, the Great Alan Rickman. That's his official name now. "By Grabthar's hammer..."

The Insider: For all the tabloid nonsense that Russell Crowe gets himself embroiled with, the fact of the matter is, the guy is one of the 10 best actors in the world. 'Insider' was his first major role and he just knocks it out of the park. He totally outshines Pacino, who wasn't quite in the phone-it-in phase of his career yet. This was one of the great journalism-themed movies of our era, and it's too bad that Crowe followed it up a decade later with the blah 'State of Play.' Spoiler alert, that one won't end up on my 2009 list. It's also worth mentioning that Insider star Christopher Plummer gave the commencement address at my graduation, and basically just made drinking jokes for 10 minutes. Good times.

Magnolia: The downside of being a film major is that when you watch a movie like this with your buddies, they all turn to you afterwards and ask, 'Whoa, hey Mark, what was up with that movie?' I believe my cultured, enlightened response was 'Uhhhh....' There may have been more h's, I'm not sure. I've already expressed my love of Robert Altman's interconnected, large-cast movies, and PT Anderson takes a page from Altman's book to create a similar type of film, except perhaps with a more out-there feel.

Office Space: No list of great movie villains is complete without Bill Lumburgh. Everything else in the movie is pretty great, but the addition of Lumburgh puts Office Space into a class of its own. This movie is basically required viewing for anyone who's ever worked in an office of any kind. I may have once called a fantasy baseball team the Pieces Of Flair.

Sleepy Hollow: Let's see, Tim Burton adapting the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. Yeah, this has slam-dunk written all over it. The film suffers just a bit from the "let's cast a talented actor in a seemingly tiny role, which makes it kinda obvious that they're the killer" syndrome, but SH has so much else going for it in terms of creepy atmosphere and the plot becomes almost secondary. (And I wouldn't dream of revealing who actually plays the Horseman when you see him in a flashback avec his head.) Given that we're just a few months away from Burton's adaptation of Alice In Wonderland with Depp as the Mad Hatter, I think we can safely put Burton-Depp near the top of the pantheon of legendary director/actor collaborative duos.

Three Kings: It's too bad that David O. Russell is apparently a legendary asshole, since when he does manage to piss off few enough people to actually make a movie, it usually ends up being at worst interesting, at best tremendous. 'Three Kings' is one of the few war movies made in the last 20 years or so that hasn't been as boring as hell, due in part to the original script and the fact that Russell filmed it in such a unique way. The story of Russell and Clooney literally coming to blows on the set is pretty funny as well. (Also, since lord knows I won't be mentioning I Heart Huckabees on this list, track down the YouTube clip of Russell and Lily Tomlin getting into a screaming match on the set of that film. C-bombs are dropped, fake doors are slammed, it's quite a production.)

(And, just because I haven't mentioned enough movies yet, American Pie, Payback, Notting Hill, Matrix and the South Park movie were also excellent. 1999 was a hell of a year for great cinema.)

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Cider House Rules, as I was dissatisfied with the novel so I figured the film couldn't be much better. I was at least pleased to see John Irving win the best adapted screenplay Oscar, since while he didn't deserve it, c'mon, it's John Irving. Also, the Iron Giant (*ducks rock thrown by Kyle*) and Topsy-Turvy.

Kyle: Delighted you included: Magnolia (the last great Tom Cruise performance? I'm excluding his work in Tropic Thunder, which, while amusing, is really more like sketch comedy), American Beauty (the only movie I've ever gone to see on my own), The Insider (YES! Though the fact that you got Christopher Plummer for your commencement address while I had to settle for Sheila Rogers is all kinds of annoying), Galaxy Quest (great selection! Surprisingly moving in places. Insert joke about Sigourney Weaver still getting it done in that jumpsuit), and Office Space (Gary Cole!). Lukewarm towards: Sleepy Hollow (I liked it, but it didn't make much of an impression on me. Without looking it up, I can name a single person aside from Depp that was in the movie), Three Kings (wanted to love it; didn't. Agreed re: war movies being a bit of letdown of late. That said, I liked Jarhead and In the Valley of Elah, tolerated (though only just) Lions for Lambs, and am hearing wonderful things about The Hurt Locker), and Malkovich (which, again, I enjoyed, but didn't blow me away. I feel as if there's something about Charlie Kaufman that I'm not getting/may never get, since he's written six movies now and I've only loved two of them--Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Enternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind--and outright hated a third one, Synechodche, New York).

Mark: Has Tom Cruise ever had a 'great' performance? Seriously, every role is a variation of the young hotshot who learns a lesson by the end. The only really outstanding performance I'd say Cruise has delivered was in Collateral, where he just totally broke type and did a surprisingly tremendous job. And I'm surprised that you've only seen one movie by your lonesome in your life. I do it surprisingly often....but then again, I'm also a sad loner.

2000.....Unbreakable: Man, why can't M. Night Shyamalan make movies like this anymore? 'Unbreakable' is a fascinating thriller/mystery with a twist ending that only enhances the rest of the film for a second viewing, not ruins it (I'm looking in your direction, Usual Suspects). It's also one of the great superhero movies ever made, and I probably should've put it on my best comic movies ever list last year. By far Shyamalan's best movie, though I should note that the 'Sixth Sense' ending was ruined for me before I saw it, so I didn't experience the film in its purest form.

Kyle: the awesome. I think you were right in leaving it off your comic book list, since I think you stipulated that it had to be based on a comic book character or graphic novel. Agreed that this is best movie. Aside from the ending sequence (which I think I go on and on about in my entry), how great are some of the individual scenes in this? I'm thinking in particular of the scene where Willis is progressively benching more and more weight, while his son moves further and further into the backroom ("we can't ever tell your mother about this"), the train sequence, and the scene where Elijah chases after the guy with the gun, and falls down the stairs. Outstanding movie...such a downer that it's poor performance at the box office shut down the trilogy idea before it even got off the ground (though, given M. Night's career arc, that could be a blessing in disguise now--maybe David would've fought the pollen count in part two...)


Best In Show: Yet another gem from Christopher Guest's mockumentary team. Hard to pick a funniest scene; I've always been partial to Fred Willard talking about how much he bench-presses, or the whole sequence when Parker Posey is trying to find her dog's Busy Bee toy. I'm not sure either is funnier than the running gag of Eugene Levy gradually realizing that his wife has slept with half the men east of the Mississippi. Weird item: my uncle HATES Christopher Guest's movies. He just thinks they're the dumbest things on the market. It's a good thing he's a Packers fan or else I'd assume we're not actually related.

Cast Away: Kind of a borderline addition given that the bookends of the film when he's back in the real world both fall a bit flat, but man, that 50-minute stretch when Hanks is on the deserted island is just spellbinding. I could've easily watched two hours of that alone. For all of Tom Hanks' acclaimed performances, this might have been his most impressive --- he makes the loss of a volleyball into a tear-jerking moment. That whole sequence on the island is just a masterpiece of acting, direction and sound effects editing. (In a totally unrelated note, I included Cast Away in a film class presentation on sound editing.) As much as I love LOST, I think a show about an actual plane crash on a normal deserted island could've been as equally fascinating even minus the time travel and immortals and walking dead. Funniest one-line criticism of Cast Away: "He spends all his time trying to get back to civilization just for Helen Hunt? Come on, they could've cast someone better than that." The preceding line was delivered by, of all people, former Jays catcher Gregg Zaun. He HATES Tom Hanks. Don't get him started. I'm dead serious.

High Fidelity: It's funny that this movie is going to suddenly be dated as hell in about 5-10 years when record stores no longer exist, but that aside, this is probably the finest of the John Cusack romantic comedy series. I hold HF in such high regard that it is one of the few film posters hanging on the wall of my old bedroom back in my parents' house in London. The others? Pulp Fiction and, somewhat inexplicably, the old Sarah Polley/Katie Holmes movie 'Go.' Okay, perhaps the wall poster thing isn't the greatest possible honor.

Waydowntown: Yay Canadian content! Waydowntown is the spiritual ancestor of that semi-crappy 'Billable Hours' show on Showcase, in the case that it it spoofs office life and has a main cast of Fab Filippo, a girl and another guy. The another guy, by the way, is Don McKellar, as part of his streak of starring in every Canadian-made film from 1999 to 2003. WDT is about a group of office workers who have an ongoing bet to see who can stay indoors the longest in Calgary's interconnected downtown area. As I write this, my current indoor streak has lasted....let's see...11 hours! Eat it, Fab Filippo!

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Well, after spending 1998 rapturously praising the Coens, I'm now forced to admit that I've never seen O Brother Where Art Thou. Dang, I'm in a tight spot. Also on the list is The Contender and Wonder Boys.

Kyle: Waydowntown...nice. A TMN staple of mine. Doesn't Filippo remind you of Dave Lee? I find the resemblance uncanny. However, if we're going for quirky CanCon starring Don McKellar, I think I'd have to go with Last Night--a small movie about an awfully big idea (the end of the world), though, admittedly, it came out in 1998. So, basically, I just wanted to brag about my film chops.

O Brother is great (though not enough, it seems, to be included on my list for this year. Ah, well). Wish I'd never seen The let's just leave it at that. I'm with you re: your breakdown of Castaway--the stuff on the island is so interesting that everything else feels unnecessary. High Fidelity--which we caught on cable a couple of weeks back--still really holds up, though I'm mystified as to why they ditched London for Chicago (the original script maintained the original location, but was ditched for Cusack and co. version set in the U.S.). Disappointing...though given what ended up happening to Fever Pitch (the second time around), perhaps we should all be relieved that they screwed up HF so little.

Mark: See if you asked Dave which celeb he's most often compared to, he'd tell you it's Robert Downey Jr. That guy is like a chameleon. Unlike me, whose closest Hollywood lookalike is either Shrek or Christopher Lloyd in his Uncle Fester gear....Gotta believe the High Fidelity switch is just so Cusack could set another movie in his hometown and give him closer access to Cubs games.

2001.....Memento: The reverse timeline is a great storytelling gimmick, most notably used in Harold Pinter's play 'Betrayal' and in the backwards Seinfeld episode (titled, in fact, 'The Betrayal' as a shout-out to Pinter). The idea of a mystery where the protagonist has only short-term memory is a brilliant one. Put the two together, and you have arguably the best mystery/noir in movie history. This is an endlessly fascinating and brilliantly-constructed picture. It's the rare mystery that stands up to repeated viewings; in other mysteries, knowing the solution takes away some of the suspense, but Memento sidesteps that by making things so oblique (but in a satisfying way) that you'll be debating what you just saw long after the end credits. Bonus points to the DVD for making you answer a memory quiz before you can access the main menu.

Kyle: word. Though if you could frame your review as more of a direct attack on A Beautiful Mind, it would be appreciated. Agreed re: its rewatchability, which has a lot to do with its ambiguousness (I still don't think it's totally clear--though you may disagree--how, exactly, his wife dies). Currently ranked #28 on's top 250, with the only more recent movie that's higher being The Dark Knight (#7), yeah, not a bad stretch for Chris Nolan, eh?

Mark: My theory was always that Catherine Shelby committed suicide by having Leonard give her an intentional overdose, since he wouldn't remember giving her the dose a few minutes earlier. So Leonard's story was basically the real-life version of the Sammy Jenkis situation. Then again, there's also the whole alternate theory that Leonard actually knowingly killed her and isn't exactly 'faking' his condition, but is just really deep in denial about his actions.


Amelie: It's been a few years since I've seen Amelie, so I sat down with it the other day to see if it could unseat Memento. In the end, I just couldn't say no to ol' Chris Nolan, but rest assured, Amelie would've been #1 in most other years on the list. Just an endlessly sweet, clever and funny story of a woman who subtly tries to bring joy to strangers and acquaintances. It's also strange, watching the movie today, and realizing that Travelocity totally ripped off their 'roaming gnome' campaign from this movie. Did Jean-Pierre Jeunet get royalties?

Moulin Rouge: There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who make absurdly declarative statements like 'there are two kinds of people in the world...' and those who don't. Wait, no, that's not my's those adore Moulin Rouge, and those who think it's a piece of straight-up garbage. There doesn't appear to be any middle ground in this debate; an old film class of mine almost turned into a Jets vs. Sharks rumble when discussing MR's merits in a seminar. As you can tell from its placement on the list, I'm definitely in the love camp.

Ocean's Eleven: Kind of an upset pick over the likes of Black Hawk Down or Gosford Park, but Ocean's 11 is one of those movies that grows on you over time. I enjoyed it the theatre in 2001, but subsequent viewings on cable (Peachtree shows it roughly once a month) only reinforce what a clever, fun movie this is. By the way, NEVER watch the original Ocean's 11 with Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin, etc. It is impossibly boring.

Zoolander: Just too many hilarious moments to recount, but I personally love the gas fight, the whole sequence with David Duchovny's hand model character and "Do you understand that the world does not revolve around you and your do whatever it takes, ruin as many people's lives, so long as you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied along the way, just so long so you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied and dying along the way?" It's funny, Zoolander was a huge bomb when it originally opened in theatres, but then it really took off on video due to word-of-mouth. The summer of 2002 is unofficially known in my extended circle of friends as the Summer Of Zoolander Quotes.

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Never got around to watching Y Tu Mama Tambien, which is pretty wild given that I love Alfonso Cuaron's work.

Kyle: tip: if you do get around to watching Y Tu (and you really should), do not watch it with your mom and dad. Trust me on this one.

Confession time: I've never seen Zoolander from start to finish. I watched the first 30 minutes when it came out on video, and then shut it off. Since you've seen fit to put it in your top five, I hereby promise to watch it and report back/explain to you why you are wrong for including it.

I liked Amelie but weren't you at all bothered by the roundabout way the titular character goes about pursuing her man? I'll admit that, after a while, I was somewhat exasperated. Just go and tell him you love him, already! Does that make me unsentimental? I see. (Note: I also feel like this movie is responsible for that tedious --and, given that the movie is horribly bloated, I have to say: completely fucking unnecessary--sequence in Benjamin Button where we see all the things that needed to happen for Cate Blanchett to get hit by that car).

Mark: The idea was that Amelie was a very withdrawn and shy person, which is why she engages in all these little escapades rather than helping people directly. Or, maybe, she just picked up on the fact that this guy was pretty odd himself, and he'd probably appreciate the chase (to a point).

2002.....Talk To Her: Maybe the best example I can use to describe the effect of Pedro Almodovar's best film is that the lead male character rapes (there's no other way to describe it) the comatose lead female character, and yet you don't blame him for it. Almodovar deals with love and obsession in such a --- seems like an odd word for it, but it fits --- sweet way that it carries you through the more disturbing and surreal aspects of the movie. I think a big part of TTH's allure is the fact that it's in Spanish. Everything sounds better in Spanish. I could describe my bowel movements to you in Spanish and it would still sound like poetry. Mi mierda es bueno!

Kyle: Thought you might pick this. Great, great, completely-and-uncontrovertibly-fucked-up movie. Impressive selection.


Adaptation.: Another brilliantly original idea from Charlie Kaufman, as he made a movie out of his frustrations at turning Susan Orlean's "Orchid Thief" novel into a movie. I'm sure that somewhere, Susan Orlean is still wondering what the hell happened, especially given that Meryl Streep ends up playing her as an adulterous criminal. The whole film is one long mediation and semi-satire of the writing process, culminating in the hilarious ending sequence that actually disappointed me before I suddenly realized the joke. The fact that Donald Kaufman was actually given co-writer credit and thus became the first fictitious person nominated for an Oscar is the perfect real-life punchline. And man, Nick Cage. As much as Nicolas Cage's acting is kind of a running joke, he is just phenomenal given the right role.

The Bourne Identity: Too bad that Doug Liman is apparently a David O. Russell-caliber pain in the ass, since otherwise he might still be directing the Bourne franchise rather than merely serving as a producer. It seems like everyone's favourite Bourne movie is either Identity or Ultimatum, and I think I'm an Identity guy. The action scenes are tight as hell, and Bourne's amnesia is an actual plot point, not the momentary hindrance it becomes in the later films. The chemistry between Damon and Franka Potente is so good that, while she's missed in the latter two films, you totally buy into Bourne's quest for revenge and frankly are a little pissed off yourself. C'mon man, you don't go after Lola!

Catch Me If You Can: A great con man movie from Messrs. Spielberg, DiCaprio and Hanks that avoids the usual pitfalls of con man movies by having the conner on the run for most of the film, thus keeping the plot from becoming a predictable web of double-crosses. The opening credits were the best I've seen of their kind until the Watchmen movie came out last spring.

Minority Report: I almost feel like Spielberg was so frustrated by "A.I." the previous year that he hunkered down and re-doubled his efforts at making a truly great sci-fi thriller. Mission accomplished. Between this and Catch Me If You Can, 2002 was a banner year for Spielberg, and yet it was only the second-best two-movie year of his career (1993 had Jurassic Park and Schindler's List). This just in, Senor Spielbergo's unionized American equivalent is a pretty good director.

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: The Pianist, About A Boy, Spirited Away, 8 Mile and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Man, at least you can't accuse me of being biased against a certain genre of film, since that's a pretty damn diverse quintet right there.

Kyle: but here's my knock against Adaptation: the joke isn't that funny. And (at least for me) knowing it doesn't improve the third act for me. I will say this, though: the scene where Charlie decides to include himself in the story and then narrates into the dictatophone that his character will narrate the following into the dictaphone is simply spectacular. But, beyond the literary recursive loop stuff, I was underwhelmed.

Jesus, good call with Minority Report. If I'd remembered, I'd likely have included it. Intrigued as to whether you're happy with the Bourne trilogy as it stands or would have preferred Liman doing all three at once (a la LOTR)...the two statements aren't mutually exclusive, mind you. Also, while Liman's career seems to have gone off the rails a bit (Jumper...I don't think I need to elaborate), I'd put the first three studio movies he's directed--Swingers, Go, and The Bourne Identity--up against pretty much anyone else's first three. (Spielberg, who immediately springs to mind, directed something called The Sugarland Express--which I believe was some sort of hovercraft...--in between the underrated Duel and Jaws).

Mark: I often roll my eyes at movies where things are really interesting for the first three-quarters, and then it just devolves into a shootout. So to actually have that turned into a gag really amused me. Minority Report is an almost-forgotten movie today, which is surprising to me. I have issues with Cruise as an actor, but more often than not, the man picks great projects. I'm pretty pleased with Greengrass helming the Bourne series given how good the third one was, though I had the exact opposite feeling after Supremacy. And come on, you're citing Doug Liman as the seminal 'best first three films ever' director? Just from guys we've covered in this list alone, you've got Tarantino, Shyamalan, Nolan, Frears, Zemeckis, Guest, Payne, Mendes, PT Anderson...the list goes on and on.

Kyle: Damn you, Shuk! First you clobber me with that Munich comeback...and now this. I said that Liman's in the conversation, not definitely #1. But now I'm a bit defensive, so: (movie that hurts them in this argument in parenthesis): Tarantino (Four Rooms or Jackie Brown, depending on how you want to score this); M. Night (Signs is only ok); Nolan (wasn't blown away by Following or--especially--Insomnia, which is the one Chris Nolan film I think I actually dislike); Frears (assuming we start with Dangerous Liasons, #2 is The Grifters--which was great--and #3 is Hero--which, decidedly, was not); Zemeckis (Romancing the Stone, BTTF, Who Framed Roger Rabbit--ok, that's a solid pick); Guest (this one is kind of stunning: Guffman, Almost Heroes, then Best in Show. The hell? He directed Almost Heroes? Talk about your ultimate shit sandwich. Guest is out.); Payne (not a fan of Citizen Ruth); Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, and Jarhead--solid); Anderson (retroactively, everyone seems to want to pretend that Hard Eight is a gem, but, no, I've seen it and it's a snooze. If that's too obscure, #3 becomes Punch-Drunk Love, which would make P.T. eligible.)

So...of the nine you list, Liman clearly outclasses seven of them, plays one to a draw (Zemeckis...only because
RTS is clearly the weak link), and--arguably--loses to one (Mendes). So...I stand by my original position.

2003.....Love Actually: I kind of glossed over 'Notting Hill' in my 1999 entry, so let's give full props to the great Richard Curtis here in 2003. Here's the guy who was behind Mr. Bean, Blackadder, the Vicar of Dibley, Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill and (in the case of Love Actually), pretty much the ultimate in multi-layered romances. This one covers pretty much all ends of the relationship spectrum, from schoolyard crushes and teenage lust to broken marriages and a, um, 'nicer' version of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. It's the rare multiple-storyline film that can make every plotline interesting, but LA does just that, and is also able to move effortlessly from the harrowing Emma Thompson/The Great Alan Rickman story to the cute subplot about the sex actors. It's also of note that Bill Nighy basically steals the whole movie as the washed-up rock star. Fellows, if you're looking for a good date movie to rent, 'Love Actually' is the perfect choice. Not only will you enjoy the film yourself, but then it'll be your pick for a rental next, so you can get away with picking, say, Predator.

Kyle: couldn't agree more. Was late to this film (2006), but it's now one of my favorites.


Bad Santa: Pretty much the definition of a dark comedy. It's so odd and off-kilter that first you laugh at just how weird it is, and then it just gets even funnier as you get increasingly sucked into the film's strange world. Pretty much any interaction between Billy Bob and the fat kid (Thurman) is gold, as is Billy Bob's midget sidekick/adversary.

Kill Bill (Volume One): I wasn't sure of what I was going to do with Kill Bill, given that the movie was split over two years but I absolutely wanted to make sure it got on the list somewhere. Vol. 1 is probably the stronger of the two halves, and since Kill Bill would've been released in 2003 anyway had it been just one epic film, it goes into the 2003 slot. So, yeah, what else is there to say other than that KB1 is one of the best action movies ever made? The second installment is more talky, but full of that Tarantino dialogue I love so much and it was still very worthwhile. How is it possible that Tarantino hasn't released a single-film version of this yet? I'd snap up that DVD in a second.

Old School: Tough pick over the equally funny Shanghai Knights, the crazy action of Ong-Bak and the mindfuck that is The Shape Of Things (god, is Rachel Weisz ever a bitch in that movie), but Old School gets the nod perhaps due to historical significance. It was Will Ferrell's first big lead, plus it resurrected Vince Vaughn's career, and it gave everyone in the world named Frank the easy 'Tank' nickname. Have you ever noticed the cavalcade of 00's TV stars that make up the supporting cast? Luke Wilson is pursuing Meredith Grey, he sleeps with Kim Bauer, his boss is John Locke, his nemesis is Ari Gold and his two buddies are married to Ari's wife and the Queen of Queens, respectively. I guess you could even argue that Ferrell himself was a TV star at the time, given that 'Old School' was his first big project after leaving SNL.

21 Grams: I'm told that this movie is very reminiscent (some might even say a copy) of Inarritu's previous film, Amores Perros, in terms of structure and overall tone. But, I've never seen Amores Perros, so 21 Grams stands out in my mind, at least, as a really well-made character study of how a car accident impacts the lives of the main characters. You get typically great work from Penn, Watts, Del Toro and Leo and the intricate flashback/flash-forward structure gives the story more weight than it probably could've achieved just in a straight-forward manner. Not to be confused with the family comedy '21 Brams,' when Bram accidentally makes 20 clones of himself while Sharon, Lois and the Elephant try to figure out which one is the original. Sean Penn is actually in that one too, starring as the Elephant.

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: House Of Sand And Fog, City of God, The Cooler, The Station Agent. HOSAF is probably the most glaring omission, given that it stars one of my bald idols Ben Kingsley and noted Jack Bauer adversary Shohreh Aghdashloo.

Kyle: go with HOSAF if you feel like you haven't been curled up in a ball and crying for nine consecutive hours nearly enough this year (though it is good). Hey, hey, City of God! Me too! Currently 17th on the top 250--this feels worthy of us actually getting together to watch it.

As it happens, Old School was on Peachtree last Thursday at midnight, so I watched it (while, ostensibly, studying for the bar exam). Still pretty damn funny ("honey, do you think KFC's still open?" still slays me). And since I watched this basically every night in the summer of '03 (while, ostensibly, writing my M.A. thesis...noticing a trend?) let me add two to the list: Craig Kilborn as Meredith's smarmy boyfriend, and Sarah Shahi (as Perry Reeves' friend)--can't believe you missed that last one...didn't she eye fuck you in traffic once?

Haven't seen Bad Santa and, oddly, the DVD of 21 Grams we rented from Blockbuster conked out with about 25 minutes to go, so I still haven't seen the ending (note: this was 3+ years ago, so perhaps I should get on the ball...). KB1 is pretty sweet, but, I have to say, I intensely disliked the second one. I would think that stringing the two together would only really serve to underscore how dull part two is.

Mark: Oh man, I forgot about Shahi and my (imagined) flirtation with her doppelganger on Lawrence Ave (post about it is here). I think a combined Kill Bill would be structured quite differently. I could see Tarantino splitting up the 'quiet kills' and 'ultra-crazy-action kills' a bit more evenly. Maybe, in order, the Bride would've gone Vernita, Budd, Elle, O-Ren and then finally Bill still at the end. And we've got to be the only two people in the world who are planning a 'City of God' party. I'll bring the soda pop! You bring the chips! Have Carrie bring the Kleenex for when we're all weeping at the abject poverty!

Kyle's Picks

1998: Rushmore: Such a well-written movie, which, like all good comedies, is funny and has a heart. There really isn't enough to be said about Bill Murray's work here, so I won't really say anything at all. I think my favorite part about Rushmore is that, based on the last scene (Max dancing with Ms. Cross with a creepy glean in his eye), I believer we're supposed to think that Max is insane (or rapidly approaching insanity) and that this is all a dark fantasy. In other words, I still think he thinks he's going to get the girl. I love that, for some reason.

On another note, is there anything funnier than Max receiving the following letter from 11-year old Dirk Callohan (real name: Mason Gamble, aka the kid who, five years earlier, played the lead role in the big-screen version of Dennis the Menace), which is then read, via voice over, by Dirk: "Dear Max, I am sorry to say that I have secretly found out that Mr. Blume is having an affair with Miss Cross. My first suspicions came when I saw them Frenching in front of our house. And then I knew for sure when they went skinny dipping in Mr. Blume's swimming pool, giving each other handjobs while you were taking a nap on the front porch." Still makes me laugh.

Mark: Interesting selection, and I have to admit, it wasn't on my radar at all. I'm more of an admirer of Wes Anderson's films than I am an actual fan. They have some great moments (the aforementioned letter from Dirk, plus Murray slapping his son from the front seat of his car, and the 'O.R. scrubs' joke that I try to use as often as possible) but overall, I dunno, there's just something missing. There is literally no reason why this should be so....deadpan quirky humor is right up my alley.

Kyle: wow...really? I'd definitely recommend you watch it again. It doesn't get much better than the opening montage of all of Max's extracurricular activities...

Other nominees...

The Big Lebowski: As recently as two months ago, this would've been my pick for '98, but I watched this with Carrie and Ann in Ireland wasn't quite as good as I remembered. Don't get me wrong, it's still terrific (I'm especially fond of Phillip Seymour Hoffman's blink-and-you'll-miss-it role in the film), but rather more aimless than I recalled. Specifically, I'm going to call out the extended bowling fantasy sequence and anything involving Julianne Moore. Underrated joke: that the Dude was one of the co-authors of the Port Huron Statement.

The Wedding Singer: currently has a 6.8 on, which is unfathomable to me. Absolutely everything works in this movie, right down to the kick-ass soundtrack (including the tremendously underrated "Somebody Kill Me"). Sandler and Barrymore have never been better--unfortunately, this movie's success no doubt led to the rather poor Fifty First Dates being made. Screw it, it was worth it. Also: Matthew Glave (Glenn Ghulia), I officially welcome you to the Bad Movie Boyfriend Hall of Fame.

American History X: Still not totally over the fact that Derek (Ed Norton)'s Nazi propaganda-spewing father in the movie was played by the dad from Boy Meets World. That shook me to my core. This movie, ultimately, is so dark, that I have my doubts it would even be greenlit by a studio today.

Saving Private Ryan:
admittedly, the plot here would be considered thin for a short film entry, let alone a 3-hour epic, but, visually, it's so stunning (notably the first thirty minutes) that I'm willing to forgive it. Fun fact: when I went to see this in the theatre, I couldn't quite make out what Hanks says to Damon as he (Hanks) is dying and thought, for the two or so hours after the movie ended, that the line was "Earnest," only to be publicly and brutally corrected by Eric Mayr (He [incredulous]: "Earn this, Kyle. Earn this. You thought his dying advice was for Private Ryan to live a serious life?"). This may or may not have involved tears.

There's Something About Mary: I'm adamant this should've been nominated for Best Picture. No clue what led the Academy to conclude, mid-70s it would seem, that including comedies in the mix would discredit the process. It's a bunch of bullshit. Watched this not too long ago on cable, and it holds up surprisingly well, particularly anything involving Matt Dillon.

Rounders: I added this after the fact--and technically it's my sixth pick--but it's an all-time "great movie to watch in its entirety when it airs at 2 a.m."

Movie from 1998 that I really should've seen by now: Gods and Monsters

Mark: So in your alternate version of Saving Private Ryan, Ryan goes back in time to become Oscar Wilde and write 'The Importance Of Being Earnest'? (rim shot) (alternate joke was "...goes on to father Jim Varney?")....Never seen AHX, should add it to my list.....I think the only reason the Academy didn't nominate 'Mary' is because they just knew that Billy Crystal would promptly walk on-stage with the semen-gel haircut, and the younger Academy members didn't want to face the awkwardness of explaining the joke to their grandparents....The fact that Lebowski ends up being completely pointless is the point, so to speak. And oh man, you didn't enjoy the Maude Lebowski experience? Julianne Moore's faux-Hepburn voice just killed me, as did that scene in her apartment with her giggly hipster friend. ("Who the fuck IS this guy?!")

Kyle: was that what Moore was going for? Totally over my head. At least that explains the naked zip line scene. Wait a minute--no, it doesn't. Agree completely with the "who the fuck IS this guy" bit--Bridges' line reading is absolutely perfect there.

*1999: The Matrix: this is so tough, since I'm certain I get more out of my #2 choice (Election) now, and the trilogy ended up being so shit in the end, but, if I'm being truthful, I don't think I was ever as blown away by a movie the first time I saw it as I was by The Matrix. Just out and out dazzled by it....and this wasn't even in the theatres. Yes, somehow I managed not to watch this movie until the day it came out on DVD. Still not sure how. Anyway, I still think that at handful of scenes--Neo and Morpheus fighting in the simulator; the rooftop sequence involving the helicopter, Neo and Trinity being fired upon, and Morpheus's extraction; and Neo and Smith fighting in the subway station--remain the gold standard for special effects. Not sure whether to be impressed with the movie...or totally dismayed with Hollywood. Very curious to see what the next generation will think of this film.

Mark: Apparently I was the only person in the world who wasn't blown away by the Matrix. Thought it was a good movie, have seen it a bunch of times, and even enjoyed the first sequel. But overall, it didn't quite turn the corner from good to great. The problem might stem from the fact that I originally saw it at that old theatre on Dundas Street in London that they tore down a few years ago, and the lousy sound system made large chunks of dialogue incoherent. Because really, what is the Matrix without being able to hear Keanu's awesome line readings? Fun fact: apparently the first choice for the role of Neo was Will Smith.

Kyle: Will Smith, eh? That would've been shit cool. Plus, given the timing, it would have saved the world from both Wild, Wild West and The Legend of Bagger Vance. Everybody wins! Um...except for Keanu, who would almost surely be dead by now in this alternate universe...

Other nominees....

Magnolia: "frogs are falling from the sky." P.T. Anderson's best movie. Provocative enough for you?

Election: in part two of our team up, I believe I called Jon Favreau's Mikey (from Swingers) out as possibly the biggest loser in film history. Well, having thought about it, I think that Matthew Broderick's Jim McCallister here matches Mikey cringe-for-cringe. Consider: decides to have an affair with his wife's best friend; rents out a seedy hotel room and, in an unfortunate turn, washes his genitals in the bathroom sink; his wife's best friend stands him up; he goes to her house, only to get stung by a bee on his eyelid; his potential mistress, overcome with guilt, confesses to his wife, who promptly kicks him out of the house (he ends up with neither of them); gets caught rigging the election; gets fired; becomes a national punchline; runs into the kid in charge of counting the votes later on, only to have him spit on his car; his comically small apartment in NYC; sees Tracy when he's in D.C., and throws a milkshake at her limo, then scurries away. I'm telling you: he's a loser for the ages.

Fight Club: hated it the first time, now I think it's a modern classic.

Toy Story II: probably just ever so slightly worse than the original, but absolutely belongs in the conversation of "best sequel ever" (off the top of my head, my top ten, in order: Godfather II, The Road Warrior, Toy Story II, The Dark Knight, Superman II, The French Connection II, X2, The Two Towers, T2, The Empire Strikes Back).

The Insider: Russell Crowe has never been (and will never be) better than he is here as schluby Jeffrey Wigand. He's so good here that I can forgive Pacino for Pacinoing it up for two hours (or maybe he actually was good in this...I really must watch this again). A hell of a movie, my favorite Mann film, and, for whatever reason, among the most overlooked films of the past twenty years--can't even begin to speculate why.

The Sixth Sense: actually haven't seen this from start to finish in probably eight years--but I'm guessing it still holds up well. Since they're both involved (to a varying degree) with this film, here's a question: whose career went off the rails faster, M. Night Shyamalan or Mischa Barton? I think--in a bit of an upset--it's M. Night. Pretty sure I would've lost this bet five years ago, when Barton was almost single-handedly murdering The O.C.

The Iron Giant: one of the two or three movies that consistently makes me cry--surprisingly effective for a n animated movie.

October Sky:
relatively standard coming-of-age tale that is raised to another level by the work of Chris Cooper and Jake Gylenhaal. Plus the scenes where Jake has to work in the mines are legitimately soul-crushing. I had to look this up, but this was directed by Joe Johnston, who took all the goodwill he earned from this movie...and then took a giant dump on his career--helming Jurassic Park 3 and something called Hidalgo--yet has somehow landed the plum gig of directing the upcoming Captain America movie. Really?? Was Brett Ratner not available?

Varsity Blues: such a guilty pleasure. I think, since this movie has come out on DVD, I've rented it once a year. $5 a year over nine years adds up to $45, so, basically, I could've bought it twice by now. No matter, it's tradition. Roughly a year ago, I named this my 8th favorite sports movie of all-time...and, if anything, it's moved up slightly (be less boring, director's cut of The Natural!). Full of first-rate chill scenes, which is really all I ask for.

Movie from 1999 that I really should've seen by now: The Straight Story

Mark: I'm impressed that we both went to a 10-movie list for 1999 and yet only had three common films to each list. 1999 was indeed a great year. M. Night totally went further off the rails since he was actually on them to begin with; three good-to-great movies in four years trumps being the fourth or fifth-hottest chick on a teen drama.....Apparently the rule at Marvel is that they're only allowed to pick good directors for one out of every five franchises. Singer, Raimi and now Favreau have filled all the good spots, so we won't see a good choice for a Marvel project until 2014, when the Coen Brothers direct the Ant-Man movie.....Ok, quick rundown. Agreed with Magnolia, Insider and Election. Have never seen Iron Giant, Toy Story II, October Sky or Varsity Blues (yikes, long list). Liked Sixth Sense but didn't love it. And I HATED Fight Club. Just did not care for it at all. That would be my pick as the most overrated movie of the decade.

Kyle: really thought I'd goad you into a big debate about the best sequels ever. Since you didn't touch it, I can safely assume that you agree with me completely. Huzzah!

2000*: Memento: my pick for movie of the decade. It's basically perfect. Top shelf performances by Pearce and Joey Pants. Tight editing. Genius writing. Unsettling score. Thrilling throughout...and a (non-?)payoff that kept people talking about the movie hours after leaving the cinema. You can't ask for much more. Also, it spawned "The Betrayal," a top ten all-time Seinfeld episode.

I'm feeling like we're destined for another Usual Suspects-type debate here (special once, ordinary every time thereafter, thus rendering the initial viewing less special), so allow me to go on the record here. To all those that say this movie would be pedestrian if it ran in chronological order, I submit: (1) that's not the fucking point...and it's a total dickish way to approach film criticism (watch me try it: "Rashomon wouldn't be worth all the hype if all the witnesses viewed the crime the same way" [dusts off hands triumphantly]); and (2) it was presented in reverse for a reason: mainly, it puts us on equal footing with Leonard, which is deeply unsettling for the viewer. Rant over...except to say: I've probably seen this movie twenty times and never fail to come away from it totally in awe.

Oh, and, by the way, this film wasn't nominated for Best Picture. Gosford Park (which beat it out for Best Original Screenplay like I'm so fucking sure people will be talking about how marvelous Gosford Park was in 2030) and A Beautiful Mind (your winner, ladies and gentlemen) were. Coming up on ten years and...yup, still terribly bitter.

(* = note the discrepancy with Memento, as Shuk awarded it in 2001 (the year in which it was eligible for Oscar nominations. Since it went into limited release on December 15, 2000, I made it my 2000 pick, since I wanted to single-out In The Bedroom in '01. At any rate, if Memento were ineligible, Unbreakable would've been my pick, so it doesn't really affect the list).

Mark: Hey, I liked Gosford Park. Direct all of your ire towards Beautiful Mind, please and thank you. And I kind of cover the 'seeing the ending hurts subsequent viewings' argument in my own list, but there are so many ways to interpret the story of Memento that the ending doesn't take away from the rest of the film if you see it again and again. Memento's ending doesn't invalidate the rest of story, whereas Usual Suspects' ending does. But, in summation, yeah, Memento is fucking great.

Kyle: it's not that GP is bad (I actually kind of enjoyed it at the time), just completely unmemorable.

Other nominees.....

Unbreakable: man, I'm kind of gutted that this came out the same year as Memento, since both are on my top ten all-time list. It doesn't get much better than nineteen of the last twenty minutes of this movie (I'm conspicuously leaving out the very last minute, which breaks one of my cardinal movie rules: don't drop in the 'freeze frame with a subtitle describing the characters' future' for fictional characters--I think only Animal House and, in a bit of an upset, The Girl Next Door have pulled this off successfully). Also: how fucking phenomenal is this soundtrack? James Newton Howard, you are a genius.

Billy Elliot: Any movie that opens with T-Rex's "Bang a Gong" has already engendered a lot of goodwill with me, so it's probably not surprise that I think this is a wonderful, wonderful film (I'm dying to see the musical--do you happen to have $385 that you're not using at the moment? $770, actually, since Carrie will no doubt feel left out). I can't help but feel that Jamie Bell's career has been a massive letdown since this came out (though this could still be lingering bitterness from Jumper--Jesus Christ, what a fucking disaster that was). Also, what the hell happened to the actor that played Billy's dad (Gary Lewis)? He was terrific here?

Best in Show: earns its place here just on the Fred Willard parts: "Excuse me if this off the subject a little bit, but just take a guess at how much I can bench press. Come on, what do you think? Take a guess. 315 pounds, at the top of my game, maxing out at 500!"; "Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?"; "If you put them in a race, who would come in first? You know if you had a little jockey on them, going like this..."; "And to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten." And that doesn't include his bits about dressing a dog up like Sherlock Holmes...or the one about whether foreign dogs bark with an accent. Not that the rest isn't pure gold either (I'm especially fond of the running gag with Catherine O'Hara's character, where it's apparent that she's slept with virtually every able-bodied man on the Eastern seaboard).

Requiem for a Dream: just a devastating film experience. Devastating. If you're not slowly rocking yourself back and forth in a near-catatonic state for the thirty minutes immediately following your first viewing of this film, I humbly suggest that you weren't watching it properly (perhaps it was on tape?). Unrelentingly bleak and unbelievably good. If you've seen it: of the four, which storyline do you feel is the saddest? (If you haven't, I'll end up answering it myself.)

Initially, I also had: Almost Famous, Traffic, and Gladiator here, but, aside from placing me in the embarrassing situation of using two 5+ exemptions in a row, I also came to the realization that, as great as those three movies are (ok, maybe 2.5 with Traffic), they're not quite on the same level as the five above.

Movie from 2000 that I really should've seen by now: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Mark: Crouching Tiger is awesome. I really wanted to find a place for it on my list, but just couldn't pull the trigger....Saddest story in Requiem, eh? Tough call. I'd go with Marlon Wayans, just because it had the added real-life tragedy of proving that Marlon Wayans could actually act, and then relegating him to Scary Movie bullshit for the rest of his career....I love that we both cited the Willard bench-press line AND a geography-related way of describing Catherine O'Hara's character's sluttiness. Great mind think alike....Never seen Billy Elliot due to these things between my legs called testicles. (And this is coming from a guy who picked The Dresser as the best movie of 1983)....Huh, neither of us picked Almost Famous OR Traffic. Surprising.

Kyle: hmmm...I feel like when I asked that RFAD question, I actually had an answer in mind, but now I honestly can't remember. Hold on. OK, I'd say that it pretty much has to be Ellen Burstyn, since she's too far gone at the end for the viewer to hold out any semblance of hope for her making a recovery (brilliantly conveyed by her two friends positively bawling on the bench in front of the mental institution). That said, you could make a pretty convincing case for Jennifer Connelly. The way she cradles that bag of heroin (is that what the kids are calling it these days? Surely not. I must confess--despite my repeated viewings of The Shield--I'm not all that up on my drug slang.) suggests that she will continue to things as depraved (if not more, if such a thing is imaginable) as the horrifying ass-to-ass sequence, so long as she gets her fix. Her obliviousness (or, perhaps more acurately: her singular focus) is chilling.

2001: In The Bedroom: This may surprise you, but I think this is one of the finest movies of the entire decade, and, almost assuredly, the most underrated flick of the past ten years. I defy you to find a film where the five main performances--Tom Wilkinson (officially my favorite actor at this stage, hammy performance in Batman Begins aside), Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl (unfairly maligned for his work in Terminator 3), Marisa Tomei, and William Mapother (Ethan!)--are stronger than the work presented here.

What I really like about the film (SPOILER WARNING--skip this paragraph if you haven't seen the film), and what keeps me coming back to it year after year, is that it's a relatively simple movie that absolutely nails all the minor details (Spacek slapping Tomei being the one glaring exception, but I'm willing to forgive it). Note how Todd Fields wisely omits the scene where Wilkinson has to tell his wife that they're son has been murdered by his (the son's) girlfriend's psychotic ex-husband (the movie goes right from him about to tell her to the post-funeral gathering). Why? Because it's a deeply private moment, and having us watch it would be unseamly. Note how Wilkinson doesn't scream at the heavens as a result of this, but rather (far more believably) simply becomes dead inside. Everything that once brought him pleasure has become tainted in an instant. Note Wilkinson and Spacek's mounting rage (in tandem with a growing sense of helplessness) as they realize their son's murderer may get off on a technicality. Note how Wilkinson, as his plot unfolds, drives around at night, listening to the midnight re-air of the Red Sox game on the radio. It's all so beautifully executed.

I'll readily admit that this is a quiet film, but it's also a wonderful one. How Wilkinson didn't snag a Best Actor statue here (Denzel won for his ridiculously over the top turn in the thoroughly mediocre Training Day) continues to mystify me.

Mark: Outstanding pick. You're right about Wilkinson getting jobbed out of the Oscar. I think Denzel was maybe the fourth or fifth best performance that year, but was 'owed' one. Dammit Academy, wouldn't it be easier to just get it right the first time?

Other nominees...

The Royal Tenenbaums: This would win most other years (1998 and 2003, certainly), and is notable for being Wes Anderson's last really good movie (though I haven't seen The Darjeeling Limited, my sense is my opinion wouldn't differ if I had). What I enjoyed here was the interplay between the funny (everything with Bill Murray; everything with Pagoda; Gene Hackman and Danny Glover interacting; Ben Stiller training his kids in case of emergency; Owen Wilson's peyote addiction; Richie's meltdown during the U.S. Open) and the serious (Richie's suicide attempt--which comes out of nowhere and is seriously gut-wrenching; the profoundly sad Margot Tenenbaum; the fact, all jokes aside, Royal has wasted his life away). In fairness, in the lesser hands, this movie would be an absolute mess, but Anderson makes it work.

A special shout-out to the scene where Stiller's Chas moves back home and sleeps in the same room as his kids. If memory serves, his sons sleep in a single bed, and he--ever the protective parent--sleeps on the floor next to them. But, just as they're about to fall asleep, one of his kids crawls out of bed and curls up next to his dad on the floor. It's all done in one overhead shot...and I continue to find that moment deeply moving.

Ocean's Eleven: a terrific film that never fails to reel me in when it's on Bravo at 3 in the morning. Shame they pissed that goodwill away with an atrocious sequel, and an only okay third outing.

Mulholland Drive: my favorite David Lynch a wide margin. Agreed, it makes no sense. Agreed, it's too weird by half. Agreed, you shouldn't have to consult outside sources to understand a movie (see here), but goddamn if this movie doesn't have a fever dream quality to it that makes it compulsively watchable. Oh, and Naomi Watts gives the single best performance by an actress I've ever seen. (If you think I'm pissed about Denzel beating out Wilkinson for ITB, you should see me whenever I'm reminded that Halle Berry's intensively uncomfortable turn in Monster's Ball beat out Watts. I'm sure it raises my blood pressure 30 points on the spot. Even writing about it here is making me agitated. DAMMIT.)

Moulin Rouge: Before I went to see this, I was warned by several different people that this film was flat-out strange...but, being a snobby cinephile, I brushed off this criticism, only to be so alarmed by the first fifteen minutes that I contemplated leaving the theatre. Of course, I ended up staying, and I'm glad I did, since this is actually a fantastic film.

Donnie Darko: Wow...I'd put these five films up against any other year's top five. DD is, admittedly, not for everyone (and, by all accounts, is one of those rare movies that is actually worse if you watch the Director's Cut), but I really dig it. Time travel, ominous tone throughout, plus a kick-ass 80s soundtrack? I retract my earlier statement: what's not to like here? This movie should have a wider following.

Movie from 2001 that I really should've seen by now: Waking Life, though I often lie and say that I have.

Mark: You're not the first one to have that complaint about the opening of Moulin Rouge. I think that was Luhrmann's way of saying, "Ok, fuck it, let's just throw people into the deep end and see if they can swim or not." There's definitely an adjustment period....I actually went out and rented Mulholland Drive a few weeks ago in preparation for your list, since I'd never seen and knew you'd give it a high ranking. Honestly, up though the love scene, it's terrific, but it doesn't just go off the rails, it salts the earth so no other rails can grow behind it afterwards. You can definitely tell the point where Lynch was realized he had to tack on an ending since the film wasn't going to be picked up as a TV series (his original intent). And boy, Watts gives the best performance EVER? That's a big statement to make....You're not missing much with Waking Life. I'm not sure if anyone has ever actually seen it. You don't really need to, frankly...."Did you just call me Coltrane?" "No. (beat) But if I did...."

Kyle: the Tenenbaums exchange. As for Mulholland Drive, I never said it was perfect (in fact, I went out of my way to highlight how perfect it isn't), but it hooks me every time. And as for the Naomi Watts thing...well, I mean, give me a better example. My rationale (and here's where I'm going to look like a total idiot): I haven't been especially blown away by many female performances in my years of watching movies. For instance, pretty much any performance by an actress prior to, say, 1965 is pretty much dead to me. I mean, I respect Katherine Hepburn and all, but performances from that era are, on the whole, way too (for want of a better term) affected for me to take totally seriously. And a lot of the stuff that people fall all over themselves lavish praise upon (Berry in Monster's Ball, Angelina in Changeling, Bening in American Beauty) have been way too over-the-top. So, aside from Watts in MD, I can only think of a handful of performances where I left the theatre thinking "goddamn, that was excellent": Sissy Spacek in In The Bedroom, Kate Winslet in Little Children, Naomi Watts in King Kong, Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde, Anne Bancroft in The Graduate, Laura Linney in You Can Count On Me, and Kim Novak in Vertigo. That's it. That's the list.

2002: 28 Days Later: it's neck-and-neck between this and The Bourne Identity for my pick for 2002, but 28DL gets it by virtue of the last twenty minutes, where Jim (Cillian Murphy) goes on a jaw-dropping rampage as the music swells. Probably one of my five favorite film sequences ever. Not sure why, but many people merely like (as opposed to love) this film, going so far as to say that the sequel--the, in my opinion, absolutely atrocious 28 Weeks Later--is basically on par with it. I continue to find this rather strange, as I feel like 28 Days Later is modern horror classic, and remains, for me, Danny Boyle's best film. Cue controversy.

Mark: Count me in the 'like' category and I haven't even seen the sequel. Maybe it's time for a second viewing, preferably in my apartment with the lights out.

Other nominees...

The Bourne Identity: ...though this movie is seriously awesome, too. As much as I liked #3, this is still the best in the series. My two favorite things about the movie: (1) on the DVD's audio commentary, director Doug Liman pointed out that, when a regular person is placed in a stressful situation, their immediate reaction is to panic, so he thought it would be cool that, when something stressful happened to Jason Bourne, he would calm right down and think his way out of problems. The best example of this is Bourne pulling the map of the Swiss bank off the wall while trying to escape, and then stealing the downed security guard's walkie-talkie so he can listen in on the people trying to track him down. Little things, sure, but they really make the movie for me. (2) this monologue: "I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?" Awesome.

Road to Perdition:
as far as I'm concerned, this is better than American Beauty, yet there appears to be a tacit agreement among moviegoers to pretend as if this film never existed. This is a beautifully shot movie, with strong performances across the board (with Newman and Hanks both, impressively, playing against type), a gut-punch of an ending, and a final line ("he was my father") that is strangely haunting. Are you a fan, Shuk? Please restore my faith in humanity.

I so wanted to despise this movie, but it won me over (except for Richard Gere's song, which is hide-your-eyes-cover-your-ears terrible). I'm rather curious to see if this was a one-time thing for director Rob Marshall--I don't recall anyone being blown away by Memoirs of a Geisha--or if he can recapture the magic with Nine, the trailer for which is pretty damn intriguing.

The Two Towers: what is probably everyone's least favorite of the trilogy is actually my favorite, mostly because the Helm's Deep battle--which, I swear, takes up two-thirds of the it possible TTT is a one-act movie?--is so totally kickass. I liked the thing with the trees, too.

Spellbound: the best documentary ever made about the Scripps Howard Spelling Bee. What's that? It's the only one? Oh. What I like about Spellbound is that it provides you with kids to root for (Nupur and April) and kids to root against (Neil, who, through no fault of his own, has a major competitive advantage thanks to his rich parents' uncomfortable fixation with the Bee and Harry, who's just fucking weird). See also: Nation, Kid. What I'm still desperate to know is how many kids the producers followed initially in order to be reasonably confident that they'd have the winner (which they ultimately did). 15 kids? 30? 50? Is there a nine-hour Blu-Ray version just waiting to be foisted on an unsuspecting public? I'm in!

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: Sam Rockwell is brilliant here (see, in particular, when he sinks deeply into a paranoid state and asks, while on live TV, to be killed by a unseen--and non-existent--sniper; also: the scene with Clooney by the pool). If Leatherheads wasn't such a big bag of shit, Clooney (by virtue of this and Good Night and Good Luck) would be right in the thick of the "first three" conversation.

Movie from 2002 that I really should've seen by now: City of God

Mark: Great call on Spellbound and Chicago, they were both tough cuts from my list. If you believe the Spellbound producers, they only followed the kids that are highlighted in the film and 'just happened' to come upon the winner. Surrrrrre....Road to Perdition gets a thumbs-up from me. What was up with all the 'Tom Hanks is playing a villain!' hype that preceded the movie? His character isn't a villain at all....Just realized that none of the LOTR films made any of my 2001-03 lists. Huh. Should I have just picked one as the representative of the whole trilogy, like the Academy did? You're right about Two Towers being underrated. It's also the installment where Gollum shows up, to boot.

Kyle: can't believe I forgot Gollum. Inexcusable. Serkis was flat-out robbed in '02...and '03. That Spellbound factoid has to be bullshit...but then, why lie about it? Thinking about it, the movie would work equally well if the best showing from one of the featured kids was, say, sixth.

2003: (weak year!) Love Actually: in the interests of full disclosure, I actually didn't see this until 2006, when I was living in Korea. My bad. It's one of my life's missions to make this the go-to Christmas Day movie in all households, instead of the manipulative and very much played out (the latter of which isn't really its fault, since it's 65 years old) It's A Wonderful Life. You with me? Favorite scene: guy with cue cards who is in love with Keira Knightley. Saddest: Laura Linney. Underplayed story: that Liam Neeson's advice to his son throughout the movie is uniformly awful (and before you say anything at all: too soon, Shuk).

Mark: "Son, just remember, when you get older, never take your wife on a ski vacat...", oh wait, your pre-emptive 'too soon' cut it off. For shame!....It's too bad that the very sad Linney story has been made unintentionally funny due to the fact that her beloved is Rodrigo 'Paulo on LOST' Santoro. Nothing like an actor becoming a running joke on a hit show to make his past roles as a dashing lover seem comical in hindsight. I kept waiting for Linney to have one of those paralyzer spiders bite her brother to keep him quiet for a few hours while she and Paulo could get it on.

Kyle: hey, it was Paulo! How the hell did I miss that? And since I may or may not include The Squid in the Whale in part four (thus making this my last chance to touch upon this) how phenomenal is Laura Linney? She rocks.

Other nominees....

Capturing the Friedmans: great/totally uncomfortable documentary about whether or not a tutor and his son sexually abused their pupils. Also a source of never-ending amusement among my friends, since I went to see this movie at Rainbow Cinema with my former boss, John Hatch (quite possibly the nicest person on the planet) on a weekday afternoon...and we were the only two people in the theatre. Good times!

Oldboy: going Korean on your ass, Shuk! Have you seen this? I don't think you have, so I'm hesitant to say anything about it, beyond it being, not only among the best revenge films ever (Kill Bill: Vol. 1 seems tame in comparison), but maybe the only example (and thus, by default, the best) double revenge in cinema history. Before I drown in hyperbole, let's quickly move on...

Return of the King: Really, my only complaint is that this one ended too abruptly.

Shattered Glass: for like the ninth time in this post, let me say: underrated flick. For the uninitiated, this is about late-90s New Republic fabulist Stephen Glass (played quite well--much to my amazement--by Hayden Christiansen). Of note is Peter Saarsgaard's excellent work here. My only issue is that the script is too deliberate in conveying that Glass is making this shit up. I mean, I get that we, as viewers, would already know that he's a liar, but his stories are so outrageous that, even within the first fifteen minutes of the film, it quickly becomes implausible that anyone he worked with wouldn't see him for the fraud that he was.

Movie from 2003 that I really should've seen by now: Dogville

Mark: I haven't seen any of these save ROTK, so my comments will be kept to a minimum. Apparently they're doing an Oldboy remake with Will Smith as the lead. Your thoughts?

Kyle: Clearly, I'm horrified that they're remaking Oldboy, for the same reason I'm horrified they remake any good movie (foreign or otherwise): there's zero upside. Like, why bother at all? And the trend towards remaking good foreign films (Open Your Eyes, Timecrimes, Oldboy) is no better than the older trend of remaking shitty domestic films. Really, it smacks of parochialism. How about instead of making an English version of Oldboy, you guys actually let the original version play in North American cinemas. I know, I know...totally insane. Anyway, two quick points: (1) I really do like Will Smith, so part of me is intrigued; and (2) apparently the American version will be based on the graphic novel (which, prior to yesterday, I didn't even know existed), so it'll be slightly different than the original (aside from the whole not being in Korean thing...) which deviated somewhat from the book.

Up next...part five (2004-2008), followed by a PTI-style discussion on the whole series (reader questions welcomed!)