At least once a month we're asked "I've got a web page! How do I get to see all the movies for free???" Our answer? "You don't. Not until you prove to the PR machine that you're serious. That means a year or two of doing it on your dime, 300 or more times a year if you cover major, minor and foreign language releases." Roger Ebert answered "When you've done 3000 reviews ..." to a colleague of ours back in the mid-1990s, which means we've hit "pro" status even as the medical problems afflicting us, detailed on the site at one point, are pushing us out the door. Hoping that we've got yet another one left in us, we mark our tenth year online with the mandatory Top 10 Lists of the Best of the Year, though we're not making a distinction between serious "films" and reg'lar guy "movies" this year. Just as in This is Spinal Tap, we've got eleven on one Top Ten. Let us start there, with the only serious film that we saw twice:

 

Best Films

Its only historical basis was that, once upon a time, writer J. M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) did make the acquaintance of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her sons -- and her husband for that matter. Finding Neverland doesn't claim to be fact, just a well told story of adults finding attractions that are quite impossible to do anything about. Barrie finds relief from a crumbling marriage in his work, here rebounding from a disastrous theatrical opening (introducing Dustin Hoffman as his American rep) by writing Peter Pan.

In alphabetical order, the rest of the Top Ten: The Aviator, Coffee and Cigarettes, The Incredibles, Kill Bill Vol 2, Miracle, Napoleon Dynamite, Shaun of the Dead, Shrek 2, Spiderman 2 and Stage Beauty.

No, it's not end of year exhaustion that has us putting two animated and one zombie movie on the list. Shrek 2 and Spiderman 2 both topped their predecessor and Shaun of the Dead is much more comedy, and a very funny one, than gorefest. Reality wiggled in with Martin Scorsese's version of Howard Hughes' early life story, The Aviator; Miracle was just as thrilling as the original US Olympic hockey teamwin over the Soviet Union (back when there was a Soviet Union) and Stage Beauty recreated a time when the very first sexist boundary fell -- the one keeping women thespians out of work. Kill Bill Vol. 2 was the complete movie that the waste of time Kill Bill Volume One wasn't -- a solid story begun and finished and as funny as it was violent. That Quentin Tarantino over-choreographed Kill Bill Volume One so that he couldn't edit his epic into a solo package is his fault, not ours. [and that y'all paid for both movies means QT is probably laughing at us all the way to the bank <g>]


While we're listing the best, you should make note of the runners-up films: Collateral, I [Heart] Huckabees, Hidalgo, The Last Shot, Ray, Hotel Rwanda and Million Dollar Baby. Most are movies for grownups, though the world spanning Hidalgo is family friendly and perfectly fit for rental. Those who fancy themselves potential film makers should track down The Last Shot, which disappeared as quickly as good pie and whose inside the biz humor is very funny (though maybe that's why it failed. Too much inside humor.) The last two on the list came in the

door at the end of the month, while we were dying of something that wasn't the flu. Hotel Rwanda is a fine re-creation of historical reality of tribal warfare and the one oasis of sanity in the middle of it. Million Dollar Baby may be the best film Clint Eastwood has directed in years and wasn't reviewed by this site for the simple reason that is rubs our nose in certain personal things that we can't blink away. They've been revealed elsewhere on the site but talking about 'em all over again would wreck some crucial material in the film's third act. We'd rather take the heat for a missing review than ruin your experience in seeing it. Why Ray, the story of the early years of singer Ray Charles, stiffed is beyond us. Truly. That leaves Tom Cruise as a bad guy, in Collateral and the very strange "existential comedy" Huckabees, which requires college education. If you don't have one, don't see it.

WORST OF THE YEAR: Birth, Butterfly Effect, Catwoman, Godsend, The Grudge, 13 Going on 30, Torque, Undertow, The Punisher, and Easy. [Runners-up: Chronicles of Riddick, Connie and Carla, Dawn of the Dead, Passion of the Christ, Perfect Score, Princess Diaries 2, Saved, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, Twisted]

         

ACTOR


Jamie Foxx

(Ray)

ACTRESS


Hilary Swank

(Million Dollar Baby)

DIRECTION


Taylor Hackford

(Ray)

SUPPORTING ACTOR


Thomas Hayden Church
(Sideways)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS


Sharon Warren
(Ray)


Don Cheadle
  (Hotel Rwanda)
Johnny Depp
  (Finding Neverland)
Leonardo DiCaprio
  (The Aviator)

Claire Danes
  (Stage Beauty)
Paz Vega
  (Spanglish)
Kate Winslet
  (Finding Neverland)


Sam Raimi
  (Spider-Man 2)
Marc Forster
  (Finding Neverland)
Martin Scorsese
  (The Aviator)

 


Burt Reynolds
  (Without a Paddle)


Regina King
   (Ray)
Laura Linney
  (Kinsey)
Cate Blanchett
  (The Aviator)

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