I didn’t realize how long it would take me to write my list of the 100 Best Movies of the 21st Century. Mostly because I had to find out the hard way — a few movies I loved came out in the late ‘90s, not early 2000 like I had thought. And once I got my list down to 100, picking an order. My favorite part of the list, was dealing with the phone calls from friends, and comments on websites.
The first call I got from a friend was giving me crap for not having The Sessions on the list. He told me, “You were praising this movie to me and my wife. We eventually saw it and loved it.”
Well, the movie made my Top 10 list that year. Helen Hunt got a well-deserved Oscar nomination (and John Hawkes should have). It just barely missed out being on this list.
A few other movies that just barely missed out on the list — two Woody Allen pictures: Cassandra’s Dream (Tom Wilkinson, Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell), and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin, Naomi Watts). No way do the overrated Allen movies Blue Jasmine, Vicki Cristina Barcelona or Midnight in Paris deserve consideration.
My mom called me. She was angry, and berating me for having Sideways “so low on the list.” She explained, “There’s no way ‘Mean Girls’ should be ahead of ‘Sideways‘. That’s just ridiculous.”
After she repeated this a few times, I asked “Have you seen ‘Mean Girls’?”
There was a silence for a few seconds before she said, “No, but I don’t have to. Isn’t it just about…some girls that are mean? Who cares?!”
Well, some people could claim Sideways is just about some guys that drink wine.
Two people asked why I didn’t have The Wolf of Wall Street on my list, and a third person asked about that and The Departed, finishing with “You obviously hate Martin Scorsese movies, which makes your list worthless.”
I’m not sure how that person missed my inclusion of Hugo (a movie that also made my Top 10 that year). One of my all-time favorite movies is Raging Bull, and in my office for years, I had a framed movie poster of Taxi Driver. I’m also one of the few critics that thinks Goodfellas is a better mob movie than The Godfather. So it’s safe to say, I’m a Scorsese fan. I just thought The Wolf of Wall Street needed 45 minutes cut out of the 2 hour 30 minute run time, especially with repetitive stuff. The Departed bothered me on a lot more levels.
A few other movies that almost made my list include Zootopia, from this year. It will make my “best of” list for films at the end of the year.
Hot Fuzz was a hysterical comedy that I thought about, but with The World’s End — I figured Simon Pegg and has crew got their props from me.
I really wanted to put Safety Not Guaranteed on the list. It’s an indie film that’s part sci-fi, part comedy (starring Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza). I like the idea of a list like this exposing people to these terrific indie films that nobody ever saw. It got 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was one of my favorites of the year. Even Roger Ebert praised the sharp dialogue in the script.
When I was being interviewed by a BBC station about these movies, one of them asked me why I don’t feel any of Quentin Tarantino’s movies deserved to be on the list. Well, because they just aren’t great films. They have a great first half, and they get crazy in the third act. He doesn’t know how to edit things out properly and throws in everything and the kitchen sink. For example, why are we seeing a close-up of food and eating in Inglourious Basterds? I’m guessing because Tarantino saw a food movie like Big Night, and wanted a scene like that in one of his films. His love of cinema sometimes clouds his judgement, and he wants to do scenes from movies he’s enjoyed. Now, if I did a list of the 100 greatest movies of all-time, I’d have Pulp Fiction on it, and probably Jackie Brown. I also liked his scripts for Reservoir Dogs and True Romance. I just didn’t think Django Unchained or Inglourious deserved to be on this list. And The Hateful Eight? That doesn’t even deserve to be on a list of Top 100 movies the year it came out.
When it came to Paul Thomas Anderson, I had a lot of film lovers give me a hard time. The BBC list had The Master. That movie was a mess, despite some great performances and interestingly shot scenes. Now, Boogie Nights would be on my list of Top 25 all-time movies. I also liked Magnolia. The one movie released, that could’ve made this list, was Punch Drunk Love. It just barely missed; or perhaps the idea of putting a second Adam Sandler movie on the list (Funny People was on it) was too much.
One person asked me about Pan’s Labyrinth. Great visuals, but I didn’t think it was a great film. I liked the movie more after sitting at a table with director Guillermo del Toro at CinemaCon years ago. Listening to his enthusiasm when he discusses movies (much like Tarantino), is contagious.
If my list would’ve been 105 movies, I would’ve included another Brit Marling film — Another Earth. She co-wrote and starred in it, and it was on my Top 10 list in 2011. Roger Ebert gave it 3 1/2 stars out of 4, calling it thought provoking. I’m glad my San Diego Film Critics Society gave Marling the award for “best actress” that year.
A woman told me I must not like romance, because I failed to put Brokeback Mountain and Brooklyn on my list. I loved the performances in Brooklyn, but it didn’t even make my Top 10 that year. Brokeback Mountain I didn’t find the least bit romantic. The guys treated their wives so poorly, it made me dislike them. Also, they were hired to do a job they didn’t do, yet the audience is asked to hate the guy (Randy Quaid) because of it. Some of my favorite movies are romantic — Casablanca, Prince of Tides, Terms of Endearment, Cousins, An Officer and a Gentleman. And my list had a few romantic films (Once, to name one).
Somebody accused me of not wanting to pick movies that other critics loved. Well, many of the films on my list got critical praise, and Oscar nominations. When I asked this person why he’d say that, he said, “You didn’t put ‘Boyhood’ or ‘Children of Men’ or ‘Shame’ on the list, and those are movies critics praised.”
Children of Men (Clive Owen, Julianne Moore) was good, but not great. Boyhood — same thing. Had the gimmick of them taking 15 years to film it not been there, it would’ve been just another mediocre coming-of-age story.
I think it’s a shame that Shame, got as much praise as it did. Decent performances from Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, but the story of a sex addict didn’t feel authentic.
On one radio interview, I was asked why I didn’t like Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence. I said, “Well…because it sucked.”
Jude Law was terrific, but the story was all over the map, and had a major flaw in the premise.
Spotlight got a lot of Oscar buzz, but I thought there were just too many scenes of reporters sitting around researching, to call this a great film. I gave it 3 stars out of 5, but that was enough to get a nice handwritten note from the director thanking me for the review. That’s probably the classiest thing a director has ever done in regards to my reviews, but…if it didn’t make my Top 10 for movies that year, it’s hard to put it on the Top 100 of the century.
I was asked why, with so many foreign films on my list, nothing from France. Well, I had The Pianist, which pains me, because Roman Polanski should be in jail. I almost put Tell No One, which was an incredibly fun thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. If my list were 115 movies, it would’ve been there.
The most critically praised (and the one that made the BBC list), would be Amelie. The lead was adorable and terrific, and the first half really charming. The second half of it lost me.
One woman thanked me for not putting Her on the list, claiming she hated it, and it could be the worst movie she’s ever seen. She didn’t like it when I said, “I actually dug that movie. It just wasn’t good enough to make my list.”
Someone asked me why, as somebody that was in radio for decades and loves music, I could omit Almost Famous. Well, it’s just an average movie. Cameron Crowe has done some brilliant stuff — Jerry Maguire, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (the script), and I’m one of the few critics that actually enjoyed Vanilla Sky.
One radio host interviewing me said, “How can you leave out ‘Inception’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’? Those films are amazing. I did like both of them, just not enough to make the list.
One movie that almost made my list was While We’re Young. I watched it again a month ago with my girlfriend, and the third act just wasn’t as strong as I had remembered. Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale made my list, and his last few movies have been good. He’s one of the most interesting filmmakers out there.
Easily the weirdest comment I got was from an actress, author, dancer, and talk show host who is talented and who I respect immensely. She only liked 10% of my list and felt that it was from a middle-aged man’s point of view. It had to be the most insane thing to say about my list. She said that when she started reading it, she just knew I’d have Funny People on it (sorry, but it was a good movie). In our debate, she claimed how funny she thought The Heat (Sandra Bullock) was. She implied I might have a problem with Melissa McCarthy’s body type. No. I had a problem with her acting like a jerk in the movie, and it not having enough jokes that worked.
In regards to her thinking the list was a “middle age man” type of list, I had the following movies, that middle aged men didn’t flock to see at theatres: Once, Broken Circle Breakdown, Rachel Getting Married, What Maise Knew, Little Children, Inside Out, Moonsoon Wedding, House of Sand and Fog, Mean Girls, Whale Rider, You Can Count on Me, Me You and Everyone We Know, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
These are movies about kids dying, women in bad marriages, weddings…so please. People that want to complain a movie list doesn’t have enough films for women…or enough movies with minorities, gay characters…or whatever other agenda they have, is just idiotic. Now, if you want to argue as to whether or not they’re good movies, that’s different.