This past year was a banner year for film, so coming up with the best 10 is a difficult exercise. I started with a list of 25, and had to simmer that down substantially, eventually cutting out some favorites along the way. So before we get to my top 10, here are some movies worth mentioning:
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Based on historical events and figures, Debaters tells the story of Professor Melvin Tolson (Denzel Washington) and the debate team he coached to renown in 1935 at Wiley College, a small black college in Marshall, Texas – defeating teams from other black colleges first, and then taking on teams from white universities.
In this occasionally pleasing – but too often lame – romantic comedy, Hilary Swank and Gerard (300) Butler are young married lovers in New York, embroiled in the posthumous lover yarn, in which one lover has died but refuses to go gently into the good night. It makes plenty of mistakes along the way, including jokes that fail to deliver and family-size sentimental hokum.
The Kite Runner is charming and visually rich in its portrayal of Amir and Hassan as they grow up together in a Kabul that now exists only in our imaginations: making minor mischief, watching American movies, and – of course – flying kites.
Director Mike Nichols brings his wisdom, cool incisiveness, and keen ability to crack wise in this odd yet most potent paste-up job of a socio-political satire. We revel in the period piece funhouse of its ’80s kitsch and the gonzo jerry-rigging of politics to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan – as cleverly maneuvered by former Texan congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) and a few conspirators.
In 1936’s Sweeney Todd the barber was simply insane. He hacked bodies into meat pies just because he could – it was the kind of frightening ambiguity that the old Tim Burton might have relished in. It surely would’ve made a far richer character for Johnny Depp, who’s nearly asleep throughout this remake.
Before he became the next Woody Allen, Judd Apatow was a writer and producer of such un-ennobling projects as Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, a film that Walk Hard unfortunately recalls. This flick will blows no one away with its scattershot satirical take on films that cry out for fiercer retribution.
Movie studios wait until the end of the year to release their best stuff, so they can capitalize on the many awards being handed out around now.
Not to put too flippant a spin on it, but beneath its hyperbolic, apocalyptic, kitschy sci-fi dread, I Am Legend taps into some basic fears we have as Americans and earthlings. First of all, we suspect that New York City may harbor rabid zombies in its darkest recesses, and-more globally-that if the terrorists don’t get us, then the environmental/bio-mishaps will.