Monday, December 28, 2009

The decade in film

In spring of 2000 I bought a "Movie Journal" at a book store. It's a nifty spiral-bound book with lots of pages to fill in. The first section is "Film Log" with a place to indicate the movie title, date viewed, what kind of movie it is, and what I thought about it. Other sections of the journal are for Sneak Previews, Trivia, Museums, Autographs, and so on. But I've just used it for reviews. For every movie I've seen in the theater since April of 2000.

I should point out also that between November of 2005 and February of 2007 I wrote a weekly movie review for a local newspaper, so that I saw almost twice the number of movies than usual during that time. But let's look at the overall statistics!

# Movies I watched in the theater between April 2000 and December 2009: 247
# of these movies that were animated: 58
# of these movies I hated so much I walked out early: 5

Here's how I liked the movies I saw this decade:
# I loved: 99
# I thought were okay: 90
# I hated: 58

I'm actually surprised I only saw about 250 movies this decade (it feels like a lot more), and I'm surprised that I loved so many of them. I guess I choose wisely most of the time.

Animation has really changed over the last ten years. The first movie I reviewed in my journal was "The Road to El Dorado," of which I wrote, "Good animation but weak story." The next few animated movies I saw in 2000 were "Dinosaur" ("Frankly, I am tired of CGI") and "Titan AE" ("Okay to very good animation, though heavily rotoscoped"). If you saw "Dinosaur" you probably wish you hadn't--it was all computer animated and beautifully done for its time, but dull as dishwater, with talking dinosaurs and a main character who could do no wrong. Most animation in 2000 was still traditional hand-drawn animation. Now that's unusual. Yesterday I saw "Avatar" ("Meh"), which I don't count as an animated movie, but which uses the same technology Pixar and co. use. And it's pretty much seamless. It just goes to show how sophisticated computer animation has become. The same with "Where the Wild Things Are," an amazing movie ("Odd and honest, with the keenest view of real childhood that I've ever seen") that used computer animation to fully animate the wild things' mouths so they'd seem more realistic. They do seem realistic. I forgot I was watching people in giant furry suits.

I'd like to say that movies are getting better, but they're not. I'm just getting savvier, I think, when it comes to Nicholas Cage movies. I used to see them all. Now I pick and choose carefully. (I'm definitely going to see "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" next year, though).

In looking through my journal, I find entries for movies I've completely forgotten. I can't even remember what they were about. 2002's "Sum of All Fears"? I wrote "Very good--not too tense but very, very riveting." Apparently I liked it a lot, but I can't remember it now. 2003's "View from the Top"? I wrote, "The plot seemed to meander without really taking off and the writing just tended to the pedantic and obvious." I don't remember. I don't remember at all.

I'm also fascinated with the way my take on a movie changes. I fill in my little journal entries as soon as I can after watching the movie. Take a movie like "Shrek," which I adore and have seen a thousand times now; I initially wrote, "Fun once, although I can't see watching it over and over." And about the movie "War of the Worlds," which I loathe now, I wrote, "Really tense and well-done." (Of course, I also added, "Tom Cruise is the King of Tards.")

I can't possibly pick a best movie out of the list of almost 250--there are far too many I loved. I'll just give a few shout-outs to movies that were excellent but didn't really catch on, together with my original journal entry:

"The Life Aquatic" (viewed 12/29/04)
Really dark but often hysterically funny. The story took some time to really get started, but it wasn't a bit predictable. Lovely deadpan, quirky humor, and excellent acting!

"Mad Hot Ballroom" (viewed 7/14/05)
Excellent documentary, really sweet and feel-good without seeming contrived. Really articulate, talented kids!

"Good Night, and Good Luck" (viewed 11/6/05)
Powerful and claustrophobic. Superb acting and writing! Watching--and enjoying--movies like this one reminds me I'm a grown-up.

"3:10 to Yuma" (viewed 9/15/07)
Really surprisingly good, particularly surprising since I don't love westerns and I'm not a fan of either main actor.

"Be Kind Rewind" (viewed 2/24/08)
Not what I expected--better, in fact. It had a deliberate pace that worked well contrasted with the homemade movies' frenetic feel. Sweet and well acted, too.

"Ponyo" (viewed 8/15/09)
Best animated movie of the year. Period. Brilliant, gorgeous, charming, and the kids in the audience loved it.

And to finish us off, here's the entry for a movie I really, really didn't like.

"King Arthur" (viewed 7/11/04)
A failed attempt at a heroic LotR clone, the sort of movie where you can tell who the bad guys are because they have bad teeth--except they didn't even manage that detail. Everyone had good teeth. And let's not even talk about the spunky Guinevere, a woman whose teeth appear to be too big for her mouth, and who goes to battle wearing a leather strap and a lot of make-up. *shudder*

So what were your favorite movies of the oughts?


Anonymous said...

wow i'm surprised someone kept track o-o
I'm going to do that this year, too! D8<

Aaron Polson said...

Awesome. I wish I had the organizational powers to keep such a record. I guess the blog stands in for something like that, but still...

I watched War of the Worlds again the other day. Cruise is king (just like you wrote). The movie seems a little silly now. Like the alien machines were buried for how long? Right under NYC? Sure...the scene in the basement with Tim Robbins was pure horror though. Ugh.

K.C. Shaw said...

fromagebri--I'm compulsive about list-making once I start. Although it is pretty cool to look back and see which movies I watched over the last ten years.

Aaron--War of the Worlds was uneven, but I really liked parts of it. The scene with the burning train passing by? GENIUS.

Jamie Eyberg said...

I think I could count on both hands the number of movies I have seen in theater's this decade. I would ahve to say my favorite is probably Cars, followed by Up!. Do you sense a theme here?

K.C. Shaw said...

Both of those are excellent movies. If you're only going to see a few movies in a decade, Pixar movies are the ones to see :)

Fox Lee said...

Hurray! Someone else who loved "The Life Aquatic"!

My surprise "loved it" movie for this year was "Lars and the Real Girl."

K.C. Shaw said...

I missed that one--I'll have to Netflix it. Although I'm a little cautious considering who's recommending it. :)