Here are my ten favorite films of the year (note: unfortunately, there were a lot of films I missed). Below you will find my top five picks for television.
Michael Mann is one of my top three favorite directors. HEAT and THE INSIDER remain two of my all-time favorite films. While this one does not rank with those two in overall quality, it still out-shines most of this year's films in class. From a social criticism/psychological point of view, the movie nailed my feelings about L.A. (I hate the trash heap and hope I never have to go there), and the character examinations were sharp and compelling. Perhaps most importantly, Mann's work with video here showed that the format can be a stylistic choice. The film unravels a little at the end, but all in all, a strong showing.
9. NAPOLEON DYNAMITE
With the all the character instincts of a Wes Anderson film and none of the visual genius, this may be the best running-gag film ever made by a bunch of friends just getting their kicks. I know a lot of people who hated it, but I found each character utterly irresistible.
8. A LOVE SONG FOR BOBBY LONG
For the first twenty minutes I was sure I was going to hate this film, but the characters are so well developed and performed that I was won over in spite of the film's cliche of a story. John Travolta's finest hour since GET SHORTY. Scarlett Johansson once again proves she's both the hottest and most talented young starlet in Hollywood. It's just too bad she didn't don that yellow dress.
7. GARDEN STATE
I adore Zach Braff. That said, this film just missed greatness, thanks to Braff's so-film-school-it-hurts script. There isn't a shot in this film that doesn't realize the full potential of film as a visual medium, and the performances by Braff and Natalie Portman (a close, close second in that hottest and most talent category) elevate the story above the script's quirkiness for quirkiness' sake rut. All in all a very good film, particularly given this was Braff's first outing as a director and he starred in it.
People keep saying this was the best movie of the year, but maybe it was just the best movie about wine. This was an excellent script from an excellent writer/director with beautiful performances throughout. But best film of the year? Come on.
5. THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU
I feel a little guilty ranking this film so high. This is Wes Anderson's most flawed outing since BOTTLE ROCKET, a film a never got into. Unlike, BOTTLE ROCKET, however, THE LIFE AQUATIC soars in the late second and third acts. The submarine scene is incredibly beautiful, and the action sequences are the most humorous ever seen on film. A flawed film, yes, but still a compelling statement on a filmmaker willing to take daring risks. I am no longer allowed to use the word compelling.
4. THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR
Perhaps the year's most depressing film, it is also the best acted. Every moment of this film makes you ache, and it contains the best closing image I have ever seen in a movie.
3. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
The year's most inventive and original film. I adore Kaufman, and I think this is his finest work. Gondry also does an astounding job realizing this madcap reality. This was an instant classic.
2. THE INCREDIBLE
And speaking of instant classics, this was both the best super hero movie ever made and the best James Bond film since GOLDFINGER. Nuff sed.
1. THE AVIATOR
There are really no words to describe how good this film was. I've seen it twice, now. The second time I went with a large family group of diverse film tastes, and every single person came out slack-jawed. Amazing performances all around, and airplanes have never been as cool.
My top five television shows.
5. VERONICA MARS
Best teen show on television. I wish I could catch this show more often, but it runs up against SCRUBS, which I like just a little bit more. I also have a huge crush on Kristen Bell.
4. BOSTON LEGAL
I've rambled on about this show elsewhere, so I really need say only two words: Spader; Shatner.
Again, Zach Braff is a genius, and how this is not in the top five for ratings, I will never ever understand. Rarely does a joke fall flat on this absurdist take on hospital medicine, and it sports the second greatest ensemble cast in sitcom television.
2. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT
Witness the greatest ensemble cast in sitcom television. If you can't keep up with the new episodes, drop the $30 on season one on DVD. You will not be disappointed, I assure you.
The most edge-of-your-seat television you've ever watched. This series really keeps you guessing, with smart writing and an immaculate cast. Speaking of television crushes, Evangeline Lilly should be on every channel all the time.
NOTE: forgive any typos. I write this at 1 a.m. with a couple of glasses of Scotch in me.