27
Jul
2009
Feature: Jordan's Movie Quest
Jordan's Movie Quest: The Year 2002
Jordan
Continuing my quest through the last decade of film, here are my top ten movies of 2002, including a blurb on each:
10. 28 Days Later"”Director Danny Boyle (of the fantastic Trainspotting and the fantastically over rated Slumdog Millionaire) creates an entirely different take on the zombie film. When crazy hippy animal rights activists insist on freeing some really mad monkeys, they also unleash RAGE, a virus that turns anyone who comes into contact with it into a bloodthirsty, angry, mindless, killing machine. Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma in a world already mostly devoid of human life. The film captures perfectly the sense of dread that fills him as he explores an abandoned London, and the realistic terror that follows when he discovers that he's surrounded by hordes of flesh hungry zombies. Not only among the best zombie movies I've ever seen, but also among the best (albeit one of the most cynical) examinations of human nature in the face of chaos ever made.

9. About A boy"” Will (Hugh Grant) is a selfish, sarcastic, carefree playboy living off of royalties from a song his father wrote decades ago. That is, until pretending to have an infant son to score with single mothers saddles him with an adolescent boy (Nicholas Hoult) in need og guidance after his wayward mother (Toni Collette) attempts suicide. Throw in Will's development of actual feelings for Rachel (Rachel Weisz) and you have the makings for an incredibly clichéd coming of age film. Instead, with a script adapted from Nick Hornby's insightful novel and a soundtrack by the soulful Badly Drawn Boy, what results is an insightful look at what creates bonds between people, and the things that allow us to finally grow up.

8. Bubba Ho-Tep"”An elderly Elvis (Bruce Campbell) and a black JFK (Ossie Davis) fight a mummy that is slaughtering the denizens of the old folks home they share. If it sounds like the most ridiculous plot you've ever heard, it is"”and it's also one of the most touching stories on aging and human mortality ever to fit neatly within the B-movie genre. After the King switches places with a popular Elvis impostor to live a normal life for a while, the impostor goes and dies on him, leaving him stranded in his life of normalcy. Flash forward a few decades, and the aged king is having trouble with his "pecker" and with convincing the nurses that treat him that he is in fact the rock and roll master he claims to be. The only man that believes him is an elderly black man who claims to be a skin-dyed JFK. He also claims that a mummy is causing the uptick in deaths among the patients in the home by sucking their souls out of their anuses. At once hilarious, heartbreaking, bittersweet, and utterly cheesy, Bubba Ho-Tep will surprise you by how much it affects you, even long after the credits roll.

7. Road to Perdition"”Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a hit man in the Irish mafia, working under the harsh, but kind John Rooney (Paul Newman) during the great depression. Rooney's son Connor (Daniel Craig) is a ruthless son of a bitch, desperate to take power. When Michael's son Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) witnesses a hit, Connor has Michael's family killed. Michael Jr. manages to survive and father and son head out on the road to escape and find peace. As they travel, the younger Michael learns what kind of man his father is, and discovers the hard learned truth that no one, not even a father, can be defined in black and white terms. Sam Mendes( American Beauty, Away We Go) directs the film as both a taut gangster thriller and a touching look at a relationship between father and son.

6. Secretary"”Lee Holloway (Maggie Gylenhaal) has just been released from a mental institution for attempting suicide. While trying to get back on her feet, she takes a job as a secretary with the cold, distant E. Edward Grey (James Spader). Lee and her boss become closer, however, when he starts to treat her as his own personal erotic slave. Definitely not a movie to watch with the parents, Secretary manages to be both incredibly erotic and amazingly romantic. Sure Edward might whip Lee with a riding crop, force her to crawl around the office and dictate exactly how many peas she can eat for dinner, but he also shows her that she has worth as a human being and gives her something to live for in the process. Unconventional? Absolutely. But also a very touching romantic comedy that proves love doesn't always fit into the form we envision.

5. About Schmidt"”Days after he finally retires, Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) is confronted with the fact that he has no idea how to run his own life after his wife dies unexpectedly. Lost and falling apart without his wife to take care of him, Warren buys a motor home and decides to visit his daughter (Hope Davis) in time to stop her from marrying the unsophisticated Randall (Dermot Mulroney). Instead he finds himself laid up with an injured back, being taken care of by his future in-law, the sexually uninhibited Roberta (Kathy Bates). Warren realizes he has wasted his life and become a miserable old man, only to wonder if he still has time to turn it all around. Alexander Payne directs this meditation on turning a life around, and the struggle it takes to win over people you've dismissed for decades.

4. Punch Drunk Love"”pudding, frequent flyer miles, Mormon phone sex operators and a harpsichord all come together in this offbeat romantic comedy from wunderkind Paul Thomas Anderson. Barry Egan (Adam Sandler, in easily his best performance) has been brow beaten by his overbearing sisters his entire life. Meek, unassuming and prone to bouts of uncontrolled rage, Barry finds solace in the voice of a phone sex worker who treats him with respect, and in a loophole that allows him to trade in pudding packs for unlimited frequent flyer miles. His life is thrown into disarray when the woman on the other end of the phone starts extorting him for money, and his sister insists on setting him up with the mysterious Lena Leonard (Emily Watson). Watching Barry fight his way through awkward encounters, neuroses, and a very angry mattress proprietor (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) provides for one of the most whimsical, disjointed romantic comedies of the decade, and possibly the most unique film in Anderson's cannon (which is saying something).

3.In America"”After the tragic death of their son, Johnny (Paddy Considine) and Sarah (the Oscar nominated Samantha Morton) immigrate from their Irish home to America with their daughters Christy (Sarah Bolger) and Ariel (Emma Bolger). After sneaking across the border, their lives are a mixture of whimsy and near poverty. Narrated by Christy, the film is a journey"”of the family from Ireland to America, from grief to acceptance, and from estrangement to reconnection for Johnny and Sarah. Sometimes hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking, the film allows you to revel in the adorable children and their hilarious antics while also worrying over how the family will support itself and grieving over the loss of the family's youngest member. Directed by Jim Sheridan (who was nominated for Best Original Screenplay), the film also contains an Oscar nominated performance by Djimon Honsou, as a neighbor who may help the family get back on track.

2. Talk To Her"”When his girlfriend (Rosario Flores) is injured in a bull fight and lapses into a coma, Marco (Dario Grandinetti) begins spending time at her side in the hospital. There he meets Benigno (Javier Camara) who is watching over his beloved Alicia (Leonor Watling), also in a coma. Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother, Volver) directs this story of the nature of love, the bonds that cannot be broken, and the perversities that our feelings can drive us to. Talk To Her never shies away from the truth, whether that truth be heartbreaking, horrifying or ultimately enlightening.

1. Adaptation"”Writer Charlier Kaufman strikes brilliance yet again in this tale of writer Charlie Kaufman (Oscar nominee Nicholas Cage) attempting to adapt the unadaptable book The Orchid Thief by elusive journalist Susan Orlean (Oscar nominee Meryl Streep). Kaufman is too caught up in his own insecurities, both creative and romantic, to actually make progress on the adaptation, and he begins to write himself into the screenplay. His brother Donald (also Nicholas Cage) is there to lend a helping hand, but his tastes are a tad too Hollywood for Charlie. As the Kaufman's look into Orlean's life and her relationship with the enigmatic and fascinating orchid poacher John Laroche (the Oscar winner Christ Cooper, never better than here) the narrative devolves as Kaufman struggles to complete his second screenplay and maintain his fraying life in the process. Also nominated for best adapted screenplay (as it is in fact based on The Orchid Thief by real life Susan Orlean) and directed by Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, the upcoming Where the Wild Things Are) the film is without doubt the best treatise on writing ever created and also a great look at how difficult it can be to create art and to start your life again once you've made a wrong turn. By turns hilarious, haunting, and deeply affecting, Adaptation will change the way you look at movies, and at life itself.
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