We just love end-of-the-year articles, don’t we? One year ending and another one beginning is such a terrific excuse for everyone in the known world of media (including Gregorian Monks chisling stone tablets) to whip up a huge number of lists and year-in-review articles. People like to write them; people like to read them. I think because otherwise we’d be really tempted to forget what happened a mere 12 months ago, and become one of those poor souls who go around muttering, “What was the first Jurassic Park about again? I didn’t even know they had a fourth one with the monkeyosaur!”
In 2002 some of the most enjoyable movies I watched were on DVD. I don’t know if it was the lack of expectations or my choice to ignore the mass marketing campaigns and watch whatever film I wanted to when I wanted to, but looking back over the year, I have quite a few nice memories of just curling up (in a manly fashion, probably holding a large part of a car that I was fixing) and allowing myself to be entertained. Donnie Darko, Van Wilder, The New Guy, Big Trouble, Resident Evil, Brotherhood of the Wolf… these were the unusual and the underappreciated, and they were all mine!
For me, the high point of the year was seeing two underappreciated cult directors receive credit due by making it big in showbiz. Sam Raimi steamrolled over just about everyone with a fun-filled Spider-Man, while Peter Jackson continued his dominance over Middle-earth with the rousing Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. M. Night Shyamalan continued to keep one foot in cult circles and the other in mainstream with a fairly successful (and talked-about) flick, Signs.
Common sense dictates that for every high point of the year in film, there’s at least a dozen lows. I began the 2002 moviegoing year by seeing a highly-advertised dud, Orange County, making me really doubt the sanity of many film critics that gush over this type of second-hand star power vehicle. In early spring, The Fellowship of the Ring failed to get a much-deserved Best Picture Oscar, and what’s worse, Russell “I’ll kick everyone’s butt in this room” Crowe beat that by playing the staple of Academy Award winners, The Crazy Guy.
2002 was a year where we saw many, many singers torture us with “big screen transitions” that went nowhere (Crossroads, Glitter, Walk to Remember, Queen of the Damned, On The Line), and I think I speak for everyone when I say it’s time to nip that trend in the bud. Another disappointment that sticks out in my mind is seeing a fairly likable Vin Diesel muck around in XXX, which was touted as a new type of spy flick, but was just as predictable and clichéd as James Bond’s traditional outings.
Yet, the lowest of the low in ’02 must go to sequels. I seriously cannot remember a movie year that had so many sequels released, and nearly all be such complete duds. Let’s name them off: Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (pros: fightin’ Yoda, cons: excruciating romance), Austin Powers in Goldmember, Star Trek: Nemesis, Jason X, Men In Black II, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Die Another Day. Some were definitely worse than others, but none of those movies will be seeing my repeat play list in the next decade. Plus, let’s not overlook Eddie Murphy’s unenviable talent for starring in not one, but three of the most crappy movies this year: Showtime, Pluto Nash and I Spy.
Now, I’m all for more people getting into movies. As an expression of art or just a way to blow off steam, film has long been a great form of entertainment, and as more and more movies come out for a broader audience, it’s only natural that we start to see more and more people in the theaters. The screenings of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter in my neck of the woods are still packed on a nightly basis, and that’s becoming less and less rare. Hurrah, says I.
But for the love of Justin, people…
Is it just me, or has the once-noble tradition of shutting the hell up in the movie theater gone the way of Roger Ebert’s high school waistline? It’s not enough that we have to endure lineups for new movies, ads that run forever and a day before the movie shows, and (beyond any measure of comprehension) cell phones and pagers chirping out the tune of whatever Britney-clone is top of the charts this week. No, for whatever reason, the younger an audience is, the more problems it seems to have containing itself for the duration of a movie.
Sure, there’s times where you expect this. I went to see Monsters Inc, a film that was great for adults but geared at kids under 10. When I’m in THAT audience, I can expect and forgive a lot. If the primary goal of a movie is to get humans under the age of 10 into seats and I choose to go with them, I should expect some noise. Kids will be kids, and in a movie where it’s appropriate to bring them, it can even be quite fun listening to them react to what’s going on onscreen.
However, I find myself more and more often wondering why I’m so often subjected to this same background noise when I’m going to movies for a more mature audience. There’s the famous “Crouching Tutu, Hidden Ding Dong” moment I had where a little girl was brought into the theater and sat right behind us. The FIRST LINE OF THE MOVIE IS SPOKEN, and she asks her dingbat mother what the character just said. Let me clarify: the little girl is not Chinese, and apparently isn’t old enough to read the subtitles. (I want to make it clear, however, that in cases like these, I blame the parents, not the kids) We moved right away.
I don’t always have that option though. At the time of this writing, Lord of the rings: The Two Towers is less than a month old in theaters. This movie is still selling out almost each and every show. When the house is full, it’s full; moving is just not an option. So imagine my happiness when, during my first ever viewing of this fine movie, the row of teenagers (13-15, I believe) behind me begins yapping during the movie. If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know my pain. These morons were commenting on EVERYTHING. Absolutely everything. They would yell “COOL” whenever something died (which, okay, I can understand), laughed at every serious moment (Gollum’s wonderful speeches in particular), and made the most inane comments about the stupidest, smallest things. My breaking point came when the Ents were gathered in the forest, and the chattiest of the group behind me exclaimed quite loudly, and I quote: “Huh huh huh… that thing’s got a big nose!”
Wow. Thank you, Thoreau. Such brilliant insight into the movie which I’d never have figured out on my own. I turned straight around in my chair and asked him (even louder) if the movie was perhaps too complex for him, and whether he was falling behind. He proceeded to stare at the screen, I proceeded to stare at him, and my girlfriend proceeded to desperately try to get me to turn back around before one of us started swinging. This was actually the third time I’d had to tell these guys to be quiet, but this was the first time I’d been rude back. I didn’t hear much more out of them (got some classic dirty looks after the movie was over though, heh), but the effect was already there. My first viewing of what will probably end up being one of my permanent top ten favourite movies was irreparably damaged, due to something as small as a few comments made just a hair too loud and too often.
This whole trend has been on the rise for the last couple of years, but I’ve just hit my limit. This is far from the only such experience I’ve had this past year. I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding next to four eight-year-old girls who kept talking, giggling, unwrapping food, and getting up to go to the bathroom. I’m getting sick of it. It sounds so petty, I know. I’m reading my own words back, and I know how I sound. But I also know that on some level, you probably can identify and agree with me. In the moment, when you’re really enjoying a movie, the last thing you want is to be snapped back to reality by some acne farm in the row behind you.
If this sounds like a rant against kids in the theater, maybe it is. I don’t normally have anything against those younger than me. I actually really love children, and don’t normally want to grind their bones for soup. But so often I wonder why, if they’re so unable to sit still for the duration of a movie, they come to/are brought to see them. In the case of little ones, I wish parents would use their common sense every once in a while. Yes, it’s nice to get the kids out of the house for a while, but why must it be at someone else’s expense? As for the teens, if you consider yourself mature enough to sit in on an adult movie, so be it, but have some consideration for those around you.
Of course, kids are hardly alone. Scores of adults are guilty of the same thing, only it’s almost somehow worse, given that (theoretically) the older you get, the better you should know. To our credit, adults as a whole seem to be coming around on the whole cell phone thing, though. Where I used to hear 4 or 5 rings in a given movie, I now usually only hear one. It’s still an irritant, but it’s calmed down a great deal.
I know the Mutant Reviewers’ readers are different than these unwashed masses. Call me crazy, but from what I know of you guys (particularly the Forum lurkers), you sound like an educated enough crowd to appreciate what I’m talking about without being guilty of it. I wish you all a good year in 2003, particularly in the theaters. From what I can tell, we’ll need all the luck we can get.
Okay, so I sat down to write my “2002: A Retrospective at the Movies” article and I had trouble recalling what I had seen in 2002. So I went to Yahoo’s website listing the 25 most popular movies in 2002 (as of 11/10/02). The popularity is based on searches and clicks that Yahoo records and I thought that would be a good place to start. So I’m just going to give you my $0.02 about these most popular movies!
1. Spider-Man: I loved this movie. I thought it was a slick, fun-to-watch adventure of a movie. Tobey Maguire and the Willem Dafoe were spot-on and Kirsten Dunst (for once) didn’t make me want to throw things at the screen or poke my eyes out with forks. Always a plus, the no-poking-eyes-out thing.
2. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones: I’m sorry to say I have not seen this yet. However, I’m not exactly running right out to rent it for two reasons. 1) I thought episode I was kind of a let down and 2) I haven’t heard that many good things about episode II. I finally made myself watch the original trilogy and I liked it a lot and I kind of feel like these episodes are spoiling it.
3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Saw it opening night. Loved it. Am waiting with baited breath for the third movie and fifth book. Go Children’s Movies!
4. 8 Mile: Haven’t seen it yet. If free will is involved I won’t see it, but if I am tied down and my eyelids are propped open with toothpicks I might see it. Eminem is cute.
5. Austin Powers in Goldmember: This is one of those movies that I had to go see because it was what the group voted on. I was not terribly excited about it because the first Austin Powers was funny but the second one was not. However, I did enjoy Goldmember. Frankly, the first 15 or so minutes was almost worth the price of admission. Very funny sequence.
6. Blue Crush: Huh?
7. XXX: Ummmm, didn’t see it. Don’t really like James Bond movies, am definitely not going to go see a “James Bond with piercings and tattoos” movie. But Vin Diesel is hot.
8. Men in Black 2 and 9. Scooby Doo: Umm, didn’t see these either. However, the word on the street is the talking dog is the highlight of MiB2, which just makes me sad. And being such a huge fan of the TV show, I just can’t bring myself to watch the movie version of Scooby Doo. Shame on you Buffy Summers!
10. Serving Sara: Hmmm, an actor from Friends who is NOT Jennifer Aniston is making a movie with an ex-supermodel? Mark me down for a “yesss!”
11. Red Dragon: I know, I know, “Manhunter, Manhunter!” the other Mutants shout as they kick me to the curb at the Mutant Headquarters. But I liked Red Dragon. I don’t care who played Hannibal in Manhunter, I like Anthony Hopkins. And Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes are both wonderful.
12. Sweet Home Alabama: Haven’t seen it yet, looked a little sappy for my taste. And I just don’t like a movie where Patrick Dempsey gets dumped. He’s the “Can’t Buy Me Love” guy! C’mon, Ronald Miller? Mows lawns and buys telescopes? The African Anteater Ritual? Anybody?
13. The Scorpion King: Hm. The Rock is cute.
14. The Ring: Very scary indeed. Highly recommended. Turned out a lot different than I thought it would and the little boy in this movie is fantastic.
15. Signs: I don’t know if I want to see Signs. Because I liked The Sixth Sense, but I still haven’t forgiven M. Night Shamalamadingdong for Unbreakable. That was such a piece of garbage. And by the way: I don’t need little words flashing on the screen to tell me what happens after the movie ends to characters that DON’T EXIST. Thank you.
16. Ice Age: Heard it was cute. Had about my fill of these kinds of movies after the thousandth time I saw Shrek.
17. My Big Fat Greek Wedding: I know, I know. I MUST SEE THIS MOVIE. I suck. I shouldn’t even be able to call myself a movie reviewer. I will go rip out one of my fingernails as penance.
18. Lilo and Stitch: Did anybody see this movie? I think the last Disney full-length animated feature I saw was The Lion King.
19. Minority Report: Liked it. Don’t want to say too much because I’m going to write a real review for it. Spielberg rocks.
20. Jackass: The Movie: Midgets and fire and poop, oh my! Pretty funny movie. Definitely one of those you don’t admit to people you laughed really hard at. Johnny Knoxville is cute.
21. Resident Evil: I thought this was a video game.
22. Crossroads: Oh Britney Britney Britney. Who told you you should do movies? Cause if you can’t ACT like a good lip syncer, you’re never going to be able to ACT as anything else.
23. Simone: Again–huh?
24. National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: Okay: funny story. I had to watch this movie because I travel with my college’s football team as a videographer and this is what all the boys voted on to watch (surprise, surprise). Well, we got to the part where they’re doctoring the donuts (if you haven’t seen it, don’t ask) and one of the guys in the movie takes this metal thing and sticks it in the donut and twists it and pulls out the inside of the donut so they can fill it with….stuff. So anyway, one of the football players goes, “What is that thing?” and I just start cracking up and he’s like, “What? Do you know what that is?” and I’m like, “Ummmm, well….when I go to the gynocologist…..that opens my cervix.” And he just got this horrified look on his face and the whole back of the bus started laughing really hard. Anyway, this movie was funnier than I expected. Tara Reid made me want to kill myself, but Ryan Reynolds is fantastic.
25. The Good Girl: I really like Jake Gyllenhaal. I may have to see this one, even if it is Mrs. Brad Pitt working at a grocery store.
“Boy that sucked.”
This comment could be used to describe The Adventure of Pluto Nash, or maybe The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Or maybe Murder By Numbers, or possibly Sweet Home Alabama. but could also be applied to any of the Jason Xs or MIB2s or Blade 2s inflicted on moviegoers.
In fact, 2002 wasn’t that bad. Sure, it has a fair share of turkeys and clunkers, but every movie year has that. No, what we saw was a return to normal, after the dizzingly years of 2000-2001, it’s refreshing to not *have* to see every movie playing. In a way, Snow Dogs is comforting. No matter what the geopolitical situation, Hollywood will still put out crap.
Lilo And Stich was ignored, despite being the best Disney movie in years. Bowling for Columbine proved that you don’t need to let facts get in the way of polemetic, and the resounding THUD that Attack of Clones had should be the death-kneel of the series. Quite a few fine movies where released (Adapation, Frida) and the ratio to an 8 Crazy Nights or SwimFan to a Two Towers is about the same as it’s always been.
Oh well, as the year draws to a close, Spider-Man flung, Jessica got kissed, there were Big Fat Greek Weddings and Minority Reports. The Ring gave us nightmares, Two Towers Thrilled, and Potter squelled. Business as usual.
Movies are all that matters, and overall I had some good times. I finally got a DVD player, and I have grown to love the DVD. Plus I’ve got a couple great rental places around where I can get anything I want (new or old!) for 99 cents, and that’s fantastic! I actually hate to admit it, but I can barely remember 2002. For one it all blends together in my head, and for another my university work overshadowed everything. Argh! Sure, I can now enjoy films in spanish without needing subtitles and analyze girly poetry, but it has robbed me of my movie memories! Luckily, I saw Die Another Day twice, so I can replay that over and over in my head until May, when I can buy the DVD. Score!
As usual, the year was full of ups and downs. Spider-Man was really cool, but it has some slow moments (especially since years of comic books have burned Spidey’s origin into my head, so I barely need a film to retell it to me). Star Wars: Attack of the Clones was stupid, but it had Christopher Lee and a few moments of cool; regardless, I bought the DVD (for some reason). Hmm.
Actually, I got a lot of surprises. The Ring was a pretty good US horror film, though the Japanese original was much better and stripped the US film of any thrills it might have held for me. Minority Report was really bad. Resident Evil was good, Van Wilder was funny, and I liked Ice Age despite not normally digging Disney films. I had to see Real Women Have Curves for my Chicana Feminism class (ah, the joys of a literature major) and while it was very predictable, it was a very enjoyable film that I highly recommend. I liked seeing Frank the Pug in Men in Black II although I did not like seeing the movie around the pug. XXX was dumb, Die Another Day was fabulous, and Jason X was mindless entertainment. I honestly can not remember anything else.
2002 had, like most years, its good points and its bad points. It also had its boring, forgettable, random points. Here now, a summary.
Imposter: Dear Imposter, Minority Report called. It wants its plot back. Love, Everyone P.S. Why Vincent D’Onofrio? Why?!?!
A Beautiful Mind: I can’t say I didn’t like this movie. No really, I can’t. Russell Crowe will be dispatched to my home or place of business to pummel me soundly about the head and chest if I do.
Orange County: It’s got Jack Black (woo hoo!). It’s got a single from the Foo Fighters (hell yeah!). It’s not really funny at all and pretty much sucked (boooooo!).
The Shipping News: Kevin Spacey. Julianne Moore. Judi Dench. Cate Blanchett. Pete Postlethwaite. Scott Glenn. Basically, this movie could be about a group of narcoleptic, mute, crochet champions who sit in a room for 2 hours staring blankly at their hands and there’d still be some life alteringly excellent acting to look at.
The Laramie Project: I started crying about 2 minutes into this movie and kept crying, with various degrees of intensity, sometimes having to stop the movie to weep out loud and other times just sitting with tears running down my face, for the entire duration of the film. I loved this movie, but I don’t know that I ever want to go through what it takes to watch it again. But if you haven’t seen it yet, you should.
Birthday Girl: I rented this one on a whim because I love Ben Chaplin. It’s an under-seen, under-hyped gem with Nicole Kidman acting the living daylights out of her role as a Russian mail-order bride. Beautifully shot, well acted and extremely well-written, this has to be the movie I was most pleasantly surprised by in 2002.
Rollerball: What’s that smell? Oh man! I got some Rollerball on the bottom of my shoe again!
Monster’s Ball: This is a great movie. If you like watching people giving amazingly realistic performances (and not just Halle Barry is astounding here), rent this movie. It’s dark. It’s depressing. It’s gut wrenching, horrifying and sad. But damn it all if it isn’t also really, really good.
Crossroads: I really wanted to hate this movie so much that I loved it. I wanted it to be included along side Glitter and Showgirls as the third part of my hilarious hootchies trilogy of mad cap crap. Sadly, Crossroads, Britney Spears and every other person involved in the making of this film bored me to tears. Do yourself a favor and rent A Walk to Remember instead. Mandy Moore ain’t no Britney, but she had the good graces to get herself involved in a TRULY hilariously bad, bad movie instead of a mildly annoying and boring bad movie.
Mean Machine: The Longest Yard remade into a British soccer movie. I rented it because it’s got Jason Stratham in it and I’d pretty much watch him do anything as long as he did it without his shirt on. Turns out this movie was a WHOLE lot funnier than I thought it would be and had a bunch of other great British actors I can’t get enough of too. Check it out.
Ice Age: This movie didn’t offend me. It also didn’t really entertain me either. The best part of the DVD is that they included the director’s Oscar winning animated short in as a bonus feature that I thought was 10 times more interesting than anything in the movie. However, John Leguizamo can do no wrong in my world, so if nothing else, it’s worth watching just for him.
Blade II: Dear Blade II, Rollerball called. It wants its title of worst, hackneyed piece of over-rated crap back. Love, Clare P.S. I hate you.
Panic Room: Oh David Fincher. I love you so. I find you refreshing and interesting and exciting. Jodie Foster, I can’t think of a finer example of modern day American actress than you. Forest Whitaker, I find your droopy eye distracting, but your acting ability is bar none. And Jared Leto, though I find your band hilarious and pointless, you’ve been making really interesting and smart acting choices the last few years. So can one of you explain to me why this movie didn’t blow my hair back. Because it should have. And it didn’t.
Big Trouble: This movie sucked less than I thought it would and cemented finally and completely my love for Patrick Warburton. Plus it’s got funny goats. Ha ha. Goats. Funny. Moving on…
Changing Lanes: Well, Ben Affleck didn’t make me want to disembowel myself with a rusty kitchen knife in this one, but I still don’t think that’s enough to make me recommend it to anyone.
Frailty: I don’t care what Druidgirl tells you, Bill Paxton kicks ASS! This movie was weird and kind of disturbing, but mostly it was just really poorly lit and made little to no sense. And the fabulous shocking ending? Not so fabulous and in my case anyway, not particularly shocking either. If you want to see a good movie with Mathew McConaughy in it, see Reign of Fire.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding: Is this the best movie ever made? Not even close. Is it funny, entertaining, touching and fun? Yes. Yes it is.
Murder by Numbers: zzzzzzzzzzzzzz, Whu? Oh! Sorry Sandra Bullock. I must have fallen asleep. You were saying something?
Deuces Wild: Say what you will. I’m the first to admit this movie sucked. But I don’t care. Because if you put a reasonably good looking man into a pair of classic cut, rolled up Levi’s, slap a white t-shirt on him, give him some big, black biker boots and a bunch of grease for his hair, throw in a couple of tattoos for good measure and maybe a wallet chain, I’m in h-e-a-v-e-n. At a certain point I just put this movie on mute and watched the swaggering unfold.
Insomnia: Good movie. Good, good, good movie. Very good movie.
Spider-Man: It was something akin to watching your little brother hit a home run in his first big game. Sam Raimi has done me proud. He made one of the most entertaining, interesting and truly enjoyable big blockbuster movies I’ve ever seen. And God bless him for it. I can’t wait for the next one.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones: Dear George Lucas, You are most definitely NOT “da man”. Love, Clare P.S. I want my $7.50 back you son of a bitch.
The Sum of All Fears: Why, if we live in a sane world, couldn’t the big nuclear explosion give Ben Affleck horrifying radiation poisoning that slowly made his skin fall off and his hair spontaneously combust? I was disappointed.
The Bourne Identity: Loved it. Want to kiss it and hug it and take it home to meet my mother.
Minority Report: I hate Tom Cruise. I loathe Steven Spielberg. I’m not much of a science-fiction fan. But damn it all if I didn’t think this movie was amazing. Except for the very end. But then again, Spielberg can’t do anything 100% completely right, so I’ll just ignore the last few minutes and concentrate on how fan-freaking-tastic the rest of the movie was.
Men in Black II: Funny doggy make me laugh. Hahaha. Good doggy.
Mr. Deeds: Yes yes. Adam Sandler can rot in eternal hellfire. But I’ll be roasting right along side him. This isn’t his best movie, but there are definitely some funny moments and John Turturro is so funny here it makes me laugh just thinking about him.
The Good Girl: This one was a toughie for me. Jake Gyllenhaal is one of my favorite actors right now and he turns in a great performance here. As do Jennifer Aniston, John C. Reilly and Tim Blake Nelson. But one of the characters (I won’t say who) dies at the end of the movie in a manner that exactly replicates how a friend of mine died a number of years ago. So any lasting impression I have of the film is basically skewed by the fact that I sat in the theater crying for a good long while after the credits stopped rolling.
Reign of Fire: Wow. This has to be the funnest, dumbest, bestest, most homo-erotic, movie I’ve seen since Top Gun. Mathew McConaughy makes his entrance in this film riding a tank with a HUGE gun thrust between his legs and the sexual tension between him and Christian Bale isn’t just hinted at. It’s thrown up on the screen in giant, fire blazing surround sound. Beautiful. I haven’t laughed this hard at an unintentionally funny movie since Glitter.
Austin Powers in Goldmember: This whole movie should have been the first 5 minutes stretched into 2 hours. But I did laugh. And I love Mike Myers. Love. Him. So no harm, no foul.
Signs: After Spider-Man, this has to be the movie I most recommended to people in 2002. It’s so well done, so well executed and so well acted. M. Night Shyamalan, I won’t make fun of your name any more.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever: Who knew blowing things up in huge fiery displays of pyrotechnic pageantry could actually get boring at a certain point?
Far From Heaven: Fascinating story. But more than that, the cinematography here is some of the best I’ve seen since American Beauty. Really remarkable.
Moonlight Mile: Not a great movie, but a good one. And it’s got Jake Gyllenhaal in it, so I automatically recommend it.
The Transporter: Yummy Jason Stratham actually rolls around half naked covered in motor oil for a really long time in this movie. A bunch of other stuff happened (hubbyman says it was a stylish and pretty well done action movie), but I can’t really remember any of that. Mmmmm, naked motor oil.
Punch Drunk Love: I think this is the best movie I saw last year. I think this is the movie I would most readily tell everyone to see even if I’m not sure they’ll like it. Because I’ve seen it 3 times now and every time I see it, I find something new and fascinating about it. And that, to me, means it’s better than just good. It’s tremendous.
Jackass: The Movie: Well, ok. So Punch Drunk Love is really, really good, but if I had $7.50 and could only see one movie before I die, I’d go see this one. In fact, even if I didn’t have $7.50 but could only see one movie before I die, I’d sneak into this one, or steal it from my local video store and watch it as many times as I could before my number was up.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Dear Sean Astin, Please let me put you in my pocket and carry you around with me all day. Love and kisses, Clare P.S. Viggo Mortenson can come too.