OK OK. Der Fersko twisted my arm.
See the vastly inferior sequel here
Definitely, Maybe - That's right. A sappy romantic comedy with Ryan Reynolds and Abby Breslin (as father and daughter). It's a real movie, and it has a fantastic sense of the way life goes on and passes us all by. It's like Chekhov for the Kate Hudson set. Nice emo soundtrack too.
O - The nineties were the decade when Hollywood decided that all works of great literature must be remade and set in a high school. This one is a leagues better re-scripting of Shakespeare than Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet, and unlike Cruel Intentions (Valmont) and Ten Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew) this one has the balls to remake a grueling tragedy into something defiantly unadorable.
The Invention of Lying - Ricky Gervais's movies can't get any respect. The reason for this is not difficult to figure out. Unlike most comedians, Gervais seems to have no desire, whatsoever, to be loved. His movies/television makes a specialty of playing unlovable lowlives, and showing that his obvious cruelties are no worse than the everyday cruelties perpetrated around him. The Invention of Lying takes that premise to its logical extreme. It's also really funny.
Speaking of which...
Death to Smoochy - I didn't believe whoever told me ten years ago (der Thobaben?) that this movie is awesome. But it was savaged so universally by critics that there was simply no way to believe them. Then I saw it and I'm not sure I laughed that hard at anything since I was eight years old and watched Spaceballs. Forget everything else and just focus on Robin Williams. Some people say it's his worst performance. I say it's the role he was born to play - a creepy, pathetic, sad clown wannabe of a villain. It's as though Robin Williams's id has been taken off its leash, and it's scarily hilarious to behold.
I, Robot - When Alex Proyas made I, Robot, it seemed like a clear next step from Spielberg's Minority Report. This is a movie every bit as intelligent as Minority Report, but without Spielberg's sentimentality or Tom Cruise's preening (it was before Will Smith became annoying).
Crash - Yeah, it won Best Picture. But nobody (except me and Roger Ebert) thinks it should have. The movie is far more hated than loved. People of a certain ilk say that it's the ultimate in condescension and preachiness. But when was the last time you saw redeemable characters onscreen who have engaged in unredeemable acts? Whether or not Paul Haggis meant it as a statement on anything greater than race, the result is far more a movie about redemption than race. In the verbatim words of Stephen Hunter, this movie shows the world through the eyes of what it must look like to God Him(Her)self. Characters intersect with one another in random ways, all of whom are capable of acting with as much cruelty as heroism.
Primary Colors - I believe Primary Colors is the greatest modern movie about politics. Far greater than Wag the Dog. Wag the Dog is a David Mamet jigsaw-puzzle, admittedly a very good one, which dramatizes our darkest fears of what politics might be. But Primary Colors is about the hope which politics can engender, and the difficulty we all have if we wish to maintain that belief.
Eurotrip - Come on. I mean....come on.
Sunshine - This film isn't hated. It's just so forgotten that another movie's already been made with the same title. This portrayal of a claustrophobic Jewish family in Hungary is one of the great family sagas in film history. There has never been a movie made which articulated what it meant to be Jewish in the Twentieth Century with the same eloquence.
The Illusionist - The Prestige is one of Christopher Nolan's better movies, but it's still a Christopher Nolan movie. His movies are elaborate games to figure out, not portrayals of human beings. But this one, the other movie about magic set in fin de siecle Europe released in 2006, is a sleeper. The Prestige shows you the trickery and difficulty involved in magic, The Illusionist wants to show you the mystery and romance. The latter is why magic is still beguiling, and why The Illusionist is such a clearly superior movie.
Baby's Day Out - The Citizen Kane of baby movies. Just sayin.
Hellboy - Who can't love a story about a comic book hero who is a demon sent to destroy humanity after Hitler didn't work out but rescued by the Americans and raised to protect the American Way? It also helps that Guillermo del Toro is a genius, would that he could finish a movie.
Elf - I'm a Will Ferrell hater. But I love this movie. Somehow, the part of an overenthusiastic giant manchild is perfect for him. Don't ask me why.
A.I. - It's far from a perfect movie. But it's a far greater movie than the failed experiment it's usually treated as being. Many science fiction films reach for the complex handling of ideas seen in this movie. Too few achieve them.
Hulk - Ang Lee did comic books the honor of taking it and its ideas seriously. He was rewarded for his troubles with what's widely regarded as the only failure of a brilliant career. The only problem is that Hulk is not a failure. It's just a movie too serious for the comic book crowd, and comic books are thought to be too silly for the artfilm crowd. One would think that there's enough overlap for this movie to have found a good audience. Apparently, one would be wrong.
Jarhead - A Sam Mendes picture I actually like. I'm as amazed as anybody. This is a movie about the gruelling process of war training. Soldiers have their identities taken from themselves, all on the off-chance that the mercilessness for which they've been trained is necessary. Yet often it isn't. That is the plot of Jarhead.
No doubt, there are many on both lists which I missed. When I think of enough of them, I'll make a 'sequel' to them both.
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