Also-Ran Movies of the ’00 – The Top 10

And now my final list of overlooked movies of the aughts.  These are the ten (OK, eleven) movies that were the very best of the overlooked movies.  If you have not seen these films, place them immediately in your Netflix queue.

In no particular order:

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – This film, which stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer, features the absolute best use of voiceover I have ever witnessed.  Seriously one of the best screenplays of the entire decade (Actually a lot of the movies on this list are here because of their strong screenplays).

In Bruges – I am loving Colin Farrell so much more now that he has decided to stop trying to be a movie star and go back to character acting.  He and Brendan Gleeson are just fantastic in this funny, quirky, violent little movie (which features not one, not two, but THREE Harry Potter actors – Bonus!)

The Orphanage – Based on the preview, this movie looked like it was going to be another stupid horror movie along the lines of The Others.  Scary quiet kids in masks, who needs that?  But this film is so much more than that, and boasts a truly heart-wrenching ending.  Confidential to Ashby: You might want to skip this one.

Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz – Funny horror and funny action done the British way.

King of Kong – Hands down the best good vs. evil film of the decade.  And it’s a documentary.  About Donkey Kong.

The Lookout – It’s Memento meats a bank heist film with the kid from Third Rock from the Sun and the other guy from Dumb and Dumber.

About a Boy – There are so many great things about this movie, but here are three: 1) Hugh Grant plays a great douchebag, and this was his first foray into douchebaggery, 2) The Badly Drawn Boy soundtrack is sublime, and 3) This is one of the few films that actually improves upon its source material.

Wet, Hot American Summer – If you are easily offended by awesome comedy, this film is not for you.  But if you can handle it, this is one of the funniest films of the decade.

Running Scared – Paul Walker and Vera Farmiga, plus Juliet from Lost in one of the freakiest roles in the freakiest scenes of the entire decade.

American Movie – This documentary follows friends Mark and Mike on their quest to film a horror movie called Coven.  I just realized this movie is actually from 1999, but I don’t care.  You should see it anyway.  Funny, but kind of frustrating.  My brother’s head will spin over this guy’s lack of monetary sense.

3:10 to Yuma – I’m not a big Western fan, but put Russell Crowe in anything and I’m bound to like it.  Make him the antagonist for Christian Bale and it’s a guaranteed must-see.


Also-Ran Movies of the ’00s – Embarrassing Films

Forever ago I started compiling lists of the best also-ran movies of the ‘00s.  These were categorized lists of the best genre films that failed to get much recognition critically or monetarily.

Recently I got a little tied up with American Idol and failed to release my final two lists to the world (my two favorite lists, in fact).  The first list is of movies that were mostly maligned by critics and that became punch lines, exemplifying all that was wrong with big budget films and big budget special effects and big budget stars.  The secret, though, is that all of these films are actually quite watchable, some of them quite good, and a few of them (I think) just weren’t appreciated in their time.

Speed Racer – It’s colorful.  It’s cartoony.  It’s ADD in film form.  I wanted to hate this movie (mostly because Mr. Mags made me see it in IMAX with him, and I hate IMAX), but I actually enjoyed the experience and I think the Wachowskis made a really fun kids’ movie.

The Island – Michael Bay is not my favorite.  I pretty much subscribe to Team America: World Police’s assessment of his filmmaking talents.  However, I am a fan of The Island.  This is a fun, fluffy sci-fi/action movie that looks great and offers up an engaging story.

Mission: Impossible III – Mr. Mags actually had this movie in his Top 10 of the decade.  I wouldn’t go that far, but this is pretty much a perfect action movie that suffered upon its release due to Tom Cruise’s couch jumping shenanigans.

Hitch – The very best case I can make for this movie is that it kept me awake even though I was watching it in bed after 10 PM.

National Treasure – I definitely made fun of this movie when I saw the trailer.  Nicholas Cage stealing the Declaration of Independence to find hidden treasure?  Do not want.  But.  In execution, it’s not half bad.

The Family Stone – This film is sanctimonious (one character –the deaf, gay son whose partner is an African American — is so blatantly in-your-face PC it’s laughable), but the film survives on its cast, specifically the always welcome Rachel McAdams.

Apocalypto – Mel Gibson has made some unfortunate choices in the last decade, to say the least, and I thought Apocalypto was going to be another one of those unfortunate choices.  Mel created quite a tidy, suspenseful, and freaky popcorn movie that just happens to be told in the Mayan language.

The Oscars, and Why I’m Giddy Like a Schoolgirl

For the first time in a long time I’m actually getting really excited about the Oscars.  For the past decade, but most notably the past few years, the Best Picture nominees have not necessarily reflected the best films of the year but rather the five films that were able to afford enough ad space and sounded pretentious enough to weasel their way into the Oscars (*cough* The Reader.)

My issues go way back to 1999 (the 2000 Oscars), one of the best years for movies in recent memory.  The five films nominated for Best Picture that year were American Beauty (which won), The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, and The Sixth Sense.  I’m not going to argue with the inclusion of a few of these movies.  American Beauty was very buzzed about at the time, and it was a very solid film (even if it doesn’t hold up as well in 2010).  The Sixth Sense was obscenely popular, and, as big of a wiener nozzle as M. Night Shayamalan turned out to be, this film was very innovative, story-wise in its day.  The Insider is a brilliant film (and Russell Crowe is absolutely amazing in it).  The two films I take issue with are The Cider House Rules and The Green Mile.

First of all, I have nothing against The Green Mile as a film.  I really enjoyed this movie.  Michael Clark Duncan is heartbreaking, and the story is touching.  It’s just that when compared with the other films that were shafted for a nomination that year, The Green Mile does not measure up.  The Cider House Rules, though, should never have even been in contention.  It’s not that it’s a bad film, per se.  It’s just so very, very slight yet very, very pretentious.  Sure, Michael Caine can have his Supporting Actor award, but leave the Best Picture nods to the movies that made actual impact.

Of which movies am I speaking?  Well, in 1999, aside from the five aforementioned films, the following pictures were released: Magnolia, The Matrix, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Being John Malkovich, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut; Election, and Fight Club.  The issue with most of these films (except for maybe Ripley, which has always seemed to me like Oscar bait incarnate) is that they’re too edgy for the Oscars.  They’re too action-y or funny or think-y.  But which films are we still talking about more than a decade later?  Not The Cider House Rules and The Green Mile (or even The Insider, really), that’s for sure.

But this year the Oscars changed the game a little bit.  This year there are TEN Best Picture nominees.  If we’d had ten nominees back in 2000, there would’ve been room for some of the more innovative, more popular, and more challenging films to make the cut.  Maybe one of them would’ve even taken the crown from American Beauty.

I’m hoping the Academy fills up the ten slots wisely this year.  Some spots are all but locks.  Avatar is in for sure, so are The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up, and Up in the Air.  Who will take the final four slots?

If the voters choose to go for hype and pedigree over actual quality, we might see a final four featuring the likes of the craptacular Nine or the underwhelming Invictus.  If the voters choose to think outside their restrictive little pretentious box, we could see nominations awarded to the very deserving District 9 and/or Star Trek, which received a 90% and 94% respectively on, better than Avatar (82%), Inglourious Basterds (89%), and Invictus (77%) .  The Hangover (78% — Take that, Invictus and Nine (37%, yes you read that right)) may even sneak in there.

Awarding quality mainstream films in this way can only be good for the Oscars themselves.  Many people have seen these movies, meaning they will be more likely to tune into the broadcast.  Producers and quality directors will see that there is some potential for reward (beyond monetary) for making good films that can also appeal to mass audiences.  Mass audiences may flock to see smaller films by directors with whom they have become familiar (see Christopher Nolan, for example).  The 10-nominee system may well contribute to a new Golden Age in Hollywood.  Or maybe I’m overstating things a bit.

Either way, I’ll be watching on Tuesday with bated breath, wearing my District 9 T-shirt and waving my Star Trek pompons.

Where I’ve Been

Sorry I’ve been neglecting this blog!  I’m going to try to post more frequently, but I’m busy with the albatross that is American Idol over at  You can read my most recent recap here.

A teaser…

Oh, Chicago, my hometown.  No wonder Idol hasn’t been back since Season 5.

And Idol kind of ruined the illusion for me tonight.  Now, of course we’ve always known that the big cattle call audition and the audition with the judges take place weeks apart from each other.  It’s the big elephant in the room.  The camera folks hang out outside some giant sporting venue with scores of people while the judges sit in some hotel room somewhere and we all pretend like these things are happening at exactly the same time.  This episode really stretched the bounds of my imagination.  The cattle call took place in cloudy weather at the United Center this year, which is way on the West Side in basically as in the middle of nowhere as you can get in a big city.  And the judges were sitting in front of a backdrop of a bustling Michigan Avenue (on a beautiful sunshiny day).

Only 13 people made it though to Hollywood from Chicago, and none of them gave me either the chills or the pitter-patters, not to mention the screaming thigh sweats.  Even the bad auditions were unremarkable.  Not a “Pants on the Ground” in the bunch.  Only the Tiny Tim impersonator made any impression whatsoever.

Here are the folks who lived to be cut at the end of Hollywood Week.

Again, click here to read my recap.  And you can follow me on Twitter @MagistraAI.

Breaking Up Is Hard (But Necessary) to Do — Part II

A few weeks ago I put several TV shows on notice — Get better, or get packin’.

I’ve come to some gut-wrenching decisions regarding three shows.  For one of the shows it’s good news, for the other two…not so much.

Community – In the past, you’ve provided me with fewer laughs than an episode of NCIS, but your last two episodes (the holiday show and the start of the second semester) were much more satisfying tonally.  Joel McHale, you’ve changed for the better.  I hope this positive character growth isn’t just a one -time thing like…

Chuck – Dear Chuck, you almost lost me last season with your repetitiveness and your whining about Sarah; but you made great strides with last year’s season finale.  It looked like we were headed in a much more exciting and mature direction.  But no.  Now you’re back to your old ways, working at the Buy More, pining over Sarah, fretting over the stupid Intersect, yadda yadda yadda.  Nothing has really changed, has it, Chuck?  So, because you couldn’t hold up your end of the bargain, I’m doing what I said I would do and walking away.

Glee – I’ve known it was over between us for a long time, but my visceral reaction to your winning the Golden Globe last night really sent me the clear message that I need to move on for my own health and sanity.  Maybe the fact that you make me so angry means that deep down there’s still something between us.  I don’t know.  I do know that I’ve been holding on to the glory of our first meeting for months now and you’ve never lived up to expectations.  So, good-bye, Glee, perhaps forever.

Golden Globes – Movie Predictions

I did some ranting earlier today about the TV Globes, but here are my movie predictions (and some rants, probably).

Best Picture – Drama

Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air

In this category, there are three movies that I very strongly liked and two movies that I very strongly had major issues with.  I would have no problem at all with The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, or Up in the Air winning Best Picture.  They are all very strong films and I enjoyed each of them.  Avatar, while stunning to look at, is horribly written.  The story is trite.  The characters are one-dimensional.  Because of the story’s failings, I have a lot of trouble awarding this film as a whole package.  Where Precious fails is in the direction/editing.  I really disliked the dream sequences.  They took me out of the film and made what should’ve been a completely heart-wrenching story a little silly at times.  The acting in that movie is unimpeachable.  Any of the actors in this movie deserves to be recognized for their work.

Best Picture – Musical/Comedy

(500) Days of Summer, The Hangover, It’s Complicated, Julie & Julia, Nine

I did not see Nine.  According to my husband (and most critics), I did not miss much.  The liked the remaining four movies in this category very much.  It’s anyone’s game, but I think the HFP will go with one of the mature comedies in this case.

Best Actor – Drama

Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Colin Firth, Morgan Freeman, Tobey Maguire

Out of these five performances, I’ve only seen two.  The buzz seems to be behind Jeff Bridges, though, so I’ll pick him.  I’d love to see George Clooney win, though.

Best Actress – Drama

Emily Blunt, Sandra Bullock, Helen Mirren, Carey Mulligan, Gabourey Sidibe

Ugh.  I’ve only seen Sandra Bullock’s and Gabourey Sidibe’s performances, but I’m going to predict that Emily Blunt wins this award because she’s in a period piece and she’s British.

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy

Daniel Day-Lewis, Matt Damon, Robert Downey, Jr., Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Stuhlbarg

It’s hard to vote against DDL or RDJ, but I’m thinking Matt Damon takes this one home.

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy

Sandra Bullock, Marion Cotillard, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep will win for Julie and Julia, as it should be.  She will also win the Oscar for this role, because I no longer want to live in a world where Meryl Streep has the same number of Oscars as Hilary Swank.

Supporting Actor

Matt Damon, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Plummer, Stanley Tucci, Christoph Waltz

This category begins and ends with Christop Waltz, who was absolutely brilliant in Inglourious Basterds.

Supporting Actress

Penelope Cruz, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Mo’Nique, Julianne Moore

This is Mo’Nique’s category to lose, but I’m pulling for one of the Up in the Air girls to pull off an upset.

Best Director

Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron, Clint Eastwood, Jason Reitman, Quentin Tarantino

I think this is going to be one of the few years where the Best Picture and Best Director are split.  I’m pulling for either Kathryn Bigelow or Quentin Tarantino in this category.

Golden Globes – TV Predictions

Just want to get my thoughts out there so I can gloat on Monday (or hide my head in shame).

TV Drama

Big Love



Mad Men

True Blood – WILL WIN. Sure, Mad Men seems like a lock in this category.  The Globes have loved the show in the past, but that’s just the problem.  The Globes fancy themselves to be the cutting-edge, cool teenage sister of the Emmys, and they’re going to pick the pretty young thing in this category.  Who should win?  Well, obviously Big Love.

Best Actress in a TV Drama

Glenn Close

January Jones

Julianna Margulies WILL WIN. Again, it’s all about newness.  January Jones could take the prize, but I think she should be disqualified on the grounds that her Saturday Night Live hosting gig proved unequivocally that she’s not really acting on Mad Men.

Anna Paquin

Kyra Sedgwick

Best Actor in a TV Drama

Simon Baker

Michael C. Hall

Jon Hamm WILL WIN.  This will be Mad Men‘s big high-profile award.  In a perfect world, Bill Paxton would be recognized for his subtle work as the patriarch on Big Love.  Actually, in a perfect world, we could go back in time and give all the awards to The Wire.

Hugh Laurie

Bill Paxton

TV Comedy

30 Rock



Modern Family WILL WIN. It just hurts my heart that Entourage is in this category.  Really?  Entourage?  That show is about on par with Two and a Half Men at this point.  There are so, so many other shows that should be filling its (and Glee‘s) spots on this list (How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Parks and Recreation, Cougartown, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Flight of the Conchords, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, just to name a few).  Everyone is picking the utterly disappointing and maddening Glee to win this category (I loathe that show.  It’s the new Heroes.  Just you wait.  Everyone’s gonna start bitching about its craptacularity any day now), but I’m hoping the voters have the brains to pick the REAL best new comedy on TV, Modern Family.

The Office

Best Actress in a TV Comedy

Toni Collette

Courteney Cox WILL WIN. She deserves this.  If Lea Michelle (who is absolutely terrible on Glee, but maybe it’s not her fault, maybe it’s the fact that the writers haven’t a clue what they’re doing) wins, you can find me drowning my sorrows in a pint of gelato later this evening.

Edie Falco

Tina Fey

Lea Michelle

Best Actor in a TV Comedy

Alec Baldwin WILL WIN. And I would have no problem with that.  I’d kind of like to see Thomas Jane win, just because I have an odd affection for him (probably since he appeared in my favorite movie and my favorite TV show AND Deep Blue Sea, which is just campy awesomeness)

Steve Carell

David Duchovny

Thomas Jane

Matthew Morrison

Supporting Actress Hodgepodge

Jane Adams

Rose Byrne

Jane Lynch WILL WIN.  And that’s fine with me.  She’s the only decent part of Glee.  Every moment of Glee that exists when she’s not on screen is pure torture.  I’d also jump with joy if The Sev won for Big Love, but that ain’t gonna happen.

Janet McTeer

Chloe Sevigny

Supporting Actor Mishmash

Michael Emerson

Neil Patrick Harris WILL WIN. Everyone loves the NPH, and rightfully so.  I’d love to see Michael Emerson win, but obviously the Hollywood Foreign Press hates Lost, so whatever.  Piven should bow out gracefully and recognize the dungheap his show has become.

William Hurt

John Lithgow

Jeremy Piven

Also-Ran Movies of the Aughts – Thrillers

Many bloggers and critics (my husband included) have been posting their lists of the best films of the 00s.  This is not one of those lists.  The following is one in a series of posts dedicated to the overlooked/underrated/hidden gem films of the Aughts.  I have handily included Netflix links with each film in case you want to add it to your queue.  And you should.  All of them.  For further inspiration, see the lists of romances, comedies, and dramas, etc.

For lack of a better word, I’m calling this a list of “Thrillers,” but really it’s a list of man movies my brother and dad would like (and that I liked, as well).

Unbreakable – This is my absolute favorite M. Night Shayamalan movie (which is really kind of not saying much because I’ve liked exactly three of his movies).  Unbreakable is a real world superhero origin story and in some ways paved the way for the realism that has infiltrated the Christopher Nolan Batman films.  There.  I said it.

Red EyeRed Eye explores the idea of what happens when the cute flirty guy sitting next to you on the plane turns out to be the huge crazy blue-eyed douchebag who’s trying to kidnap you.

Snatch – Brad Pitt is ridiculously awesome in Guy Ritchie’s heist follow-up to Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.

Inside Man – This Spike Lee movie is a complex tale of a bank robbery that turns into a hostage situation.  And there are a few stars in the film, too, namely Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, and Clive Owen.

Phone Booth – Colin Farrell has to stay on the phone while Jack Bauer points a sniper rifle at him.

JarheadJarhead is one of the best war movies of the past 10 years, mostly because it’s strictly soldier-centric.  There’s no big overreaching message or political agenda.  It’s about being a young person in the desert with no mission.

Black Hawk Down – And another great war film of the Aughts is Black Hawk Down, directed by Ridley Scott.  This film follows the crew of a downed helicopter in Somalia.

Training Day – It always seems somewhat not right (at least on the surface) that Denzel won his Best Actor Oscar for this movie and not for Malcom X or Hurricane (kind of like how Russell Crowe won for Gladiator and not for The Insider or A Beautiful Mind), but maybe it is actually more fitting that Denzel did win for this role as the crookedest of crooked cops since it played so against his usual type and his performance completely elevates this movie.

Taken – Liam Neeson has a specific set of skills and he will not hesitate to use them if you don’t hand over Shannon from Lost, bitches!

What were your favorite action movies/thrillers of the past ten years?

Also-Ran Movies of the Aughts: Horror

Many bloggers and critics (my husband included) have been posting their lists of the best films of the 00s.  This is not one of those lists.  The following is one in a series of posts dedicated to the overlooked/underrated/hidden gem films of the Aughts.  I have handily included Netflix links with each film in case you want to add it to your queue.  And you should.  All of them.  For further inspiration, see the lists of romances, comedies, dramas, and difficult dramas.

I have to credit my friend Jeff with getting me into horror movies.  He is the horror movie master.  I am just a lowly apprentice.  I’m not a fan of gore for no reason (a-hem Hostel), and I’ve never really liked any of the American remakes of Japanese horror films (really haven’t liked most of the Japanese originals either, I must say).  However, these are the somewhat under-the-radar horror films that are worth your time.

Zombieland – I’ll start with one of the newest.  This film is more funny than scary, but that’s OK.  I love funny horror movies.  Have you ever seen Demons 2?  Best comedy ever.  Zombieland also features one of the best celebrity cameos of all time.  Of ALL TIME.  And that’s not a clue.  Kanye West is not the cameo.

The Descent – Mr. Mags and I have dubbed this one “The Decent” because it really, truly is decent.  The first half of the movie is a claustrophobe’s nightmare, what with all the spelunking and stuff.  The addition of scary creatures at the end of the movie is just overkill, in my opinion.  The prospect of being caught in a cave for the rest of your life is horrifying enough.

Audition – Basically a mail-order bride gone very, very, VERY bad.

Slither – This is a really fun action comedy in which aliens are turning all of a town’s residents into zombies and monsters.

Feast – For all the drama that John Gulager caused on Project Greenlight, he ended up making a really funny little horror movie.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose – Critics were calling this one not a scary movie, but a courtroom drama.  That is false.  This is one of the scariest frakking movies I’ve ever seen.  To this day, if my sister-in-law wakes up at 3 AM, she can’t get back to sleep until 4.

Dawn of the Dead (remake) – This movie was not supposed to be good, but (aside from the fast zombies – blasphemy) this is a fun little undead romp.

Final Destination 2 – You don’t have to watch the whole thing, just the opening scene on the highway.

Also-Ran Movies of the Aughts – Difficult Dramas

Many bloggers and critics (my husband included) have been posting their lists of the best films of the 00s.  This is not one of those lists.  The following is one in a series of posts dedicated to the overlooked/underrated/hidden gem films of the Aughts.  I have handily included Netflix links with each film in case you want to add it to your queue.  And you should.  All of them.  For further inspiration, see the lists of romances, comedies, and dramas.

Some movies, no matter how banal, are so easy to watch that you can get sucked into a Saturday afternoon TBS marathon in five seconds (Hello there, Down to Earth).  Other movies, no matter how great, always seem like a chore to watch because the topic at hand is so heavy (Nice to see you, American History X).  The following are some of the movies of the 00s for which it was worth having your guts ripped out.

United 93 – This movie, deservedly, made some Top 10 lists, but it still remains one of those films that people are reluctant to see because of the sensitive 9/11 subject matter.  I say even though the ending is ultimately depressing, the story itself is one of triumph and heroism.  This film is not at all sappy or manipulative.  It’s just about what happened.

In America –  Jim Sheridan’s fine film  is about the difficulties of immigration and features brilliant acting by both Samantha Morton and Paddy Considine.

Dear Zachary – This documentary that a friend put together for his murdered friend’s son is going to set you back about three to seven boxes of Kleenex.  So wretchedly sad, but so worth watching.

House of Sand and Fog – This is one of the few movies that ended up being better than the book (another such movie makes my Top 10 Also-Ran All-Stars, but that remains a secret for now).  Ben Kingsley is heartbreaking and, in my opinion, should’ve won the Oscar over Sean Penn (jeebus, I hate the movie Mystic River so very, very much).

Hotel Rwanda – Like Children of Men and Big Fish, this is one movie that left me speechless for a long time afterwards because I knew the second I opened my mouth I would start bawling.  Don Cheadle, you are my hero.

The Machinist – Is there nothing Christian Bale won’t do for a role?  Here he shrinks down to Kate Moss size to play the role of a man who is living his nightmare.

Dancer in the Dark – It’s because of this movie that Bjork was invited to the Academy Awards and wore her infamous swan dress, so immediately, there’s that.  But there’s also the beautiful music and the poignant story of a mother trying to find the American dream and a more hopeful future for her son.

Little Children – Child molesters, adultery, and first date masterbation.  Oh, my!

What movies were worth all the hankies and the discomfort to you?

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