You know, everyone else is doing it, so why can't I? For me, this was a really great year for the movies. Unfortunately, however, my list is of course going to be limited to the movies I've actually SEEN, so there will be some glaring omissions just due to the fact that I can't get to the theater every weekend like I used to. But of the movies I've seen this year, these are my 10 favorites in order.
1. The Constant Gardener- No other movie knocked me flat and haunted me for days the way this heartbreaking love story between Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz did. The hardcore truths spoken in the film are unsettling.
2. Crash- A rare film in which all facets of society- from the rich attorney's wife, to the poorest gang members in the ghetto- are examined for their roles in our country's inherenet racism, and how no incident is contained in a vaccuum. As a Buddhist, I felt the Four Noble Truths pulsating throughout this movie. Crash engrosses, fascinates, and teaches. A rare film, indeed.
3. A History of Violence- The masterful David Cronenberg invites us into the deep depths of the human psyche again for an exploration on how difficult it can truly be to escape our demons. Viggo Mortenson delivers his best work here, and the cameo performance by William Hurt ties off this quiet, but explosive picture with a flourish.
4. Broken Flowers- No one else has mastered the quiet, introspective, deadpan genius that is Bill Murray. In a story where a lonely millionaire who is bad at relationships comes to find out that he may have fathered a child 20 years ago, Murray reluctantly takes to the road to retrace his past, and perhaps learn a little something more about himself. The performances by his former lovers Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, and Frances Conroy all make this movie memorable.
5. Lord of War- Nicholas Cage was a pretty busy man last year, as two of his films are on this list. Lord of War, is the first and best of the two. A cynical portrayal of the underworld of private arms dealing, Lord of War follows the story of a man who climbed to the top of his field by being blithely unaffected by the moral deficiencies associated with selling weapons to dictators and war lords. But the movie still manages to make us care for its characters, and its voice is true, even if it's hard to hear.
6. Walk the Line- With astonishing, very real performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, this movie will make you appreciate the music, even if you aren't a fan.
7. King Kong- Peter Jackson's portrayal of this classic tale bests the original in so many ways. We see King Kong as a reflection of ourselves, and the tragedy and aesthetic beauty of this film are more palpable than in any of its predecessors. That, and the battles between Kong and the dinosaurs on the island kick so much ass that they alone make it worth the price of admission!
8. Batman Begins- Quite simply the best of the Batman pictures, and one of the best films of the year. Christian Bale was a wise choice to play the tortured Bruce Wayne and the haunted hero he becomes. Following the backstory of Bruce Wayne with much more precision and detail than the previous films, we are treated to a fantastic villain in Liam Neeson, as well as a deeper emotional core in what it takes to turn a young billionaire into a man who dresses up like a bat. This film is dark and not recommended for a young audience with good reason. The campy fare that prevailed in the previous Batman films is absent here, and a young child (say under age 10) should not have to see Scarecrow, played beautifully by Cillian Murphy, in his nightmares.
9. In Her Shoes- Cameron Diaz is a spoiled, irresponsible brat to Tony Collette's driven, albiet lonely, lawyer. These two sisters clash in every way possible, yet find a way to connect over a long, lost grandmother (played by Shirley McClaine, in a brilliant form I hadn't seen since Terms of Endearment). I do not have a sister, but movies like this always make me wish I had. Beneath all of the craziness between these two, there is a bond there too deep to be broken.
10. The Weather Man- This was just a very weird movie. But also fascinating in how it illustrates a man, Nicholas Cage, who is by all accounts successful in his career, but has failed miserably as a husband, a son, and a human being- and is all too aware of it. Michael Caine's performance as the father is filled with so much nuance and restrained heartbreak that it is quite simply brilliant.