Have I really been reviewing films for over 15 years now? Really!? Funny how time flies when you’re sitting in the dark with a watered-down Pepsi.
Jesus, feels like yesterday the local country radio station appointed me the local movie critic – and jetted (that sounds better than saying â€˜paid for a ticket for me to ride the V-Line’) me off to the big smoke to catch all the big releases (“Casper”, “Basic Instinct”, “Scent of a Woman” etc) in exchange for an â€˜advertiser-friendly’ opinion.
Granted, I was a much kinder, gentler film reviewer back in those days – not that I could’ve been as bitter as I am now, what with working on commercial radio – but one thing’s remained the same, I’ve never been ashamed to go against the masses. If I like something, I’ll say it; if I hate something, I’ll flame it (despite what Bill Collins thinks of the same movie). For instance, I remember back in the radio days really enjoying Kevin Costner’s controversial H20-centric “Waterworld”… despite the fact that every other critic out there wanted to take a chainsaw to it (and Costner). But I stuck to my guns, and admitted to the listeners that “I enjoyed it, it’s a fun movie”.Â And though I’d probably take a much cleaner magnifying glass to it these days than I did back then, I’d likely still give the film the thumbs up (Yes, it was essentially â€˜Mad Max on Water’, but tell me, what’s so wrong with that!?). Â Later, when I graduated to print, I adopted the same principle – if I enjoyed something, I was going to say I did. Screw â€˜em. I remember enjoying quite a few films back in the day that some of my peers didn’t – “Batman Forever” was one (say what you will about “Batman & Robin”, but “Forever” is actually quite a fun movie), “Tombstone” was another, Â “Judgment Night” (absolutely adored Stephen Hopkins’ ghetto-centric thriller), and I still remember a few people questioning whether I’d given 1993’s “Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me” such a rave review because the distributor were advertising in the magazine (the answer, by the way, was no – I thought, and still think, the pic is one of David Lynch’s most visually-arresting pieces; yes, it could’ve been much better, had New Line not have messed with the script and laid the white-out to much of it, but the result was still mesmerizing. But again, I’m probably in the minority – Lynch fans usually are). And as it turns out, some of the films I raved about upon initial viewing that others didn’t, like Peter Weir’s magnificent “Fearless”, have since caught on.
At the same time, I was also aware of what my job was – so had no problem ripping to shreds blunders like John Woo’s “Hard Target”, “Fatal Instinct” (remember that bowl of unfunny lard!?), “Last Action Hero” (”Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and Hamlet is taking out the trash”), and “Robocop 3″ (I don’t think I’ve ever been as disappointed by a sequel as it was this one). And I only got more and more critical over the years…. by 2000, at which time I was a syndicated reviewer across a chain of newspapers and quite a few magazines, I was still telling it like it is, but mainly, a tad more masterful at picking apart a libretto’s bones.
2000 was a good time to be a critic too – the internet had just kicked up, so that gave us movie fans (who said â€˜nerds’!?) another medium to tackle (Harry, Garth, Patrick, Bjorn, and myself were some of the earliest film webmasters – back then half the studios had no idea what a â€˜browser’ was let alone know what to do with this new form of media and its inhabitants – heck, some still don’t),Â independent film was going from strength to strength (“The Blair Witch Project” had really opened the floodgates to the broke-but-talented),Â and genres like the superhero film – seemingly dead-in-the-water thanks to bloated blunders like “Superman IV : The Quest for Peace” (1987) and “The Punisher” (1989) – and the teenage slasher flick (back with a vengeance thanks to the Kevin Williamson written “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” films) were in the primary stage of their second coming.
I can’t quite remember what the first film screening of 2000 was for me, likely because I just went to sooooo many of them that year.Â Probably more than I do now. But it’s funny, the ones that stick out are the bad ones – Walter Hill’s science-fiction dud “Supernova” (my wife will never forgive me for dragging her along to that one), the Scientology-sponsored “Battlefield Earth”, the severely over-hyped “Double Jeopardy”, the extremely disappointing “Mission : Impossible II” (“G’day Ethan, welcome to Australia maaaate”), and the snooze-worthy “The Art of War” starring Wesley â€˜next time you see me, it’ll be at the video store’ Snipes. I remember those more so than the good ones, because they were just so bloody awful.
There were a mass of teenage comedies that year – everyone wanted to be the next “American Pie”, you see, which had made a packet the year before, but sadly Freddie Prinze Jr’s “Down to You”, James Franco-starrer “Whatever it Takes” and Jason Biggs/Mena Suvari reunion “Loser” weren’t half as funny or as fun as the Pastry-Humper comedy was.
And there were just as many teen slasher flicks – the second “Urban Legend” was out, the first of the “Final Destination” films (actually quite good!), and the seemingly-final “Scream” flick (which they screened for us in Gold Class – but not even free fish and beer could coax anyone to write anything nice about that one) were out. And then there were all the pricey star-drivenÂ flicks, like “Batlefield Earth” (John Travolta), “Reindeer Games (Ben Affleck)”, “Passion of Mind” (Demi Moore), “The Watcher” (Keanu Reeves) and “Space Cowboys” (Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones), that went on to become some of the most reputably unsuccessful films of all time.
There were a lot of big things happening in my life that year too, and it’s funny, but I associate a film with those events. I associate a break-up with a screening of the Coen’s “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou”, a fortuitous chance meeting with a Melissa Joan Hart-comedy (“Drive Me Crazy”), a serious car accident with “Charlie’s Angels” (I had a prang just before the media screening), and the first hint that Moviehole – which had been running, oh, two or three years by then – was becoming somewhat of a monster was when I started receiving emails from the likes of Christian Bale, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Reese Witherspoon and Jeff Bridges, who were all commenting on my reviews of their latest films (usually acknowledging my compassion – ha!) and making themselves available for a chat (and to this day, I’m still pals with Reese and Jen); Christian? Dunno what happened to him? Has he done anything since “American Psycho”!?).
But this here isn’t just about 2000 – which, looking back, was quite the landmark year… if only for the shit it produced – it’s also about the nine years that followed it.
So here it is, with thanks to a blistered finger, infinite steep parking fees,Â and ten years of financial-yearÂ diaries , my top fifty films of the decade -Â Let me stress that again – â€˜my’ top fifty films of the decade.Â There’s a reason “Life is Beautiful”, “The Pianist” and “Le Roi Danse” aren’t here, and that’s because, quite simply, there were fifty other films I enjoyed a hell of a lot more than those – and yes, a couple of those were Comic Book movies; there might even be a David Lynch film amongst â€˜em (“Yeah, big surprise Clint”). Many won’t agree with the choices I’ve made, that’s totally understandable, but what you’ve got remember kids is these are the films that I personally went gaga for. Not you. Me. So how did I come up with my top 50? Well I rated the films based on how much I enjoyed them based on the initial viewing (of course) but also how keen I’ve been to watch them again. A â€˜favourite’ film, as I see it, is one you don’t just watch once, but want to watch again and again – and most of the films in this list, I dare say, have spun in my machine quite a few times.
I’m going to trickle the list out in bits…. Starting with the bottom ten. Enjoy… complain… applaud…. or simply log off and check out chickswithhorses.org instead.
Empire Strikes Back
St. Elmo's Fire
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
The Breakfast Club