In two days, I will turn fifty. Or maybe you could say, I will achieve fifty years old, finishing my 50th year. To celebrate (at least, on this blog), we’re taking a look back and picking a film from each year of my life that I think is notable. My birthday is June 7, so each film came out in the year that began on that date, according to Wikipedia.
I’m not warranting that these are the best movie from each year, or even my favorite. I’m actually purposely avoiding mentioning any films that are on my recently created and revised list of 101 Movies That I Love the Most (to be revealed soon). The ones listed here are just movies I find interesting and worth noting–and that maybe are worth seeing if you have the opportunity.
As I was preparing for this, I decided to pick another from each year that I haven’t seen, and make a viewing-list for myself for the 51st year. You can see that list on the bottom of the post.
Check out Part Three here, and Part Five here.
31st Year (June 2000 – June 2001)
Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Release Date: July 7, 2000
This is one of my favorite movies in the “unexplained slightly mystical things that happen to a person so they can learn an important life lesson” subgenre of comedy films. In this one, Bruce Willis plays a self-absorbed image consultant who suddenly finds that he has unwanted house guest–himself as a child. And of course, his childhood self is awkward and embarrassing. And of course Willis has some important lessons to learn about life and himself. It’s sentimental, but it’s one of those films where the sentiment works extremely well. Spencer Breslin plays the young Bruce Willis, and Emily Mortimer plays Willis’ potential girlfriend.
32nd Year (June 2001 – June 2002)
Directed by Sam Raimi
Release Date: May 3, 2002
Spider-Man has long been outshone as a great superhero film, but there was a time when it shone brightly as a comic book adaptation which arguably most joyfully embraced its roots. Really, not since Christopher Reeve had we seen a superhero on screen who actually looked so much like his comic book counterpart. The movie has flaws, to be sure (as one friend says, when you’ve got an actor who looks so much like the Green Goblin as Willem Dafoe, why put him in that bizarre metal suit?), but overall it’s a whole lot of breezy fun. Spider-Man was followed by sequels which were both better (Spider-Man 2) and worse (Spider-Man 3), and of course today everyone loves Tom Holland, but the success of this original Spider-Man movie was a serious milestone on the way to abundance of comic book movies that we have today. So I guess that’s good or bad, depending on your point of view.
33rd Year (June 2002 – June 2003)
Directed by Andrew Stanton
Release Date: May 30, 2003
Finding Nemo isn’t the first Pixar film, but it’s one of the best. The underwater environment is lovingly realized (I’m trying to avoid saying immersive) with beautiful attention to detail. The storyline is consistently laugh-out-loud funny while still being full of heart–the emotional nature of the plight of both Marlin and Nemo is conveyed powerfully and clearly. All the main characters are fully developed and easy to connect to, but Ellen Degeneres’ Dory is obviously a standout, although like many such characters making her the lead in the sequel didn’t necessarily do her any favors.
34th Year (June 2003 – June 2004)
School of Rock
Directed by Richard Linklater
Release Date: Ocober 3, 2003
School of Rock is not as deep or serious as a lot of films in this list, but is a lot of fun and easily one of Jack Black’s most enjoyable roles. The movie is about Dewey, a loser who loves rock and roll, and who, desperate for money, ends up lying his way into a teaching gig at a prestigious private school. At first determined to just slip through that job as easily as possible, he eventually discovers a love for teaching his kids music and seeing how that impacts their lives for the better. It’s all a bit silly and a bit schmaltzy, but Jack Black’s earnest charm and humorous antics pull it off. Joan Cusack is also good as the school principle, who is Dewey’s semi-friend / semi-adversary.
35th Year (June 2004 – June 2005)
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Release Date: April 22, 2005
I’ve heard mixed things about this film but I’ve always enjoyed it. Nicole Kidman is Silvia, a woman who works at as an interpreter for the United Nations, as she speaks an obscure African language from the small country she grew up in. Sean Penn is the Secret Service agent who investigates when Silvia overhears in her language a murder being plotted. The story then proceeds to unfold a multi-layered story about the political complexities of a war-torn African nation, and about what it means to bear terrible loss, trauma and grief. Both Kidman and Penn are very good, and though they bend over their shared pain, the movie never turns them into a romantic couple, and is stronger for it. There are also some extremely tense suspense scenes, particularly one where Secret Service agents are following a known terrorist on a bus.
36th Year (June 2005 – June 2006)
The Constant Gardner
Directed by Fernando Meireilles
Release Date: August 31, 2005
The Constant Gardener is a gripping, intense dramatic thriller, and is the second film in a row on this list to revolve around political difficulties in Africa. In this case, Ralph Fiennes plays a junior diplomat in Kenya whose wife is shockingly murdered. As he investigates, a terrible scandal around unethical medical testing is revealed. It’s a strong piece of social commentary-laden storytelling anchored by solid performances by Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, who won an Oscar for her role as the wife.
37th Year (June 2006 – June 2007)
Children of Men
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Release Date: December 25, 2006
Speaking of gripping and intense, you’ve got Children of Men, a movie which presents a near-future dystopia in which people are no longer able to conceive children. Faced with the imminent extinction of the human race, society is on the verge of collapse. Into this nightmare, a pregnant woman is discovered, creating a political and social maelstrom. Clive Owen plays a former activist who gets involved with an effort to deliver this young woman to scientists attempting to cure the world’s infertility. Co-starring Julianne Moore, the movie is a gritty and grounded action thriller about challenging subject matter which features a number of (apparently) single-shot sequences that are staged with unbelievable dexterity.
38th Year (June 2007 – June 2008)
Kung Fu Panda
Directed by John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
Release Date: June 6, 2008
After three years of increasingly gritty and intense dramas, we shake things up a bit by returning to Jack Black and Kung Fu Panda…an epic family-friendly martial-arts movie centering around Po, a wonderfully humorous animated hero. Jack Black is really funny in the role, but he also brings lots of hear to the role. He is ably supported by all sorts of other talented people, eg Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Ian McShane and more. The movie tells a really fun grand scope adventure story and is beautifully animated. It has spawned sequels and spin offs, of course, but the original is still the bst.
39th Year (June 2008 – June 2009)
Directed by Danny Boyle
Release Date: December 25, 2008
Slumdog Millionaire is an ambitious film story told in an ambitious way. Dev Patel plays Jamal Malik, a boy who grew up on the streets of Mumbai and went through a lifetime of struggle and difficulty. His life is full of criminals, abuse, betrayal and romance…and it all comes together when he becomes a contestant on the Indian version of Millionaire. Thanks to destiny (or some handy screenwriting contrivances) he confounds everyone by knowing the answers to all the questions, which leads to a fresh round of trouble. The movie doesn’t shy away from the intensity of its subject matter, and makes compelling viewing. Not only is the plot itself interesting, but the story has got an impressive nonlinear structure, telling three different parallel chronologies in Jamal’s life, that it weaves together with beautiful rhythm.
40th Year (June 2009 – June 2010)
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Release Date: August 14, 2009
I went to the movies in 2009 with the intention of seeing Julie & Julia, but my wife and I got the times wrong and so we ended up seeing District 9 instead. It’s a lot more gruesome than Julie & Julia, but still very much work watching. The movie is a science fiction social commentary on racism, apartheid, xenophobia and forced migration. It tells the story of an “invasion” of poor, suffering refugees who turn up in a flying saucer over Johannesburg and end up being an oppressed minority there. Sharlto Copley is excellent as a bureaucrat tasked with the job of relocating all the aliens from their slum to a camp outside the city. His casual and even good-natured prejudice is brutal and quite shocking to see. The movie starts off entirely using “found footage”, supposedly as shot for a news documentary. However, as things take a dramatic turn it transitions to “regular footage”, but still with the raw documentary feel of the start.
Fifty Films for my Fifty-First Year – Part Four
Now here, we continue with my choices of fifty more films, one from each year, which I plan to watch in this upcoming year. I’ve never seen any of them before. Some I’ve always wanted to see, while others I never really thought about (or even heard of in some cases) before working on this post.
Year Thirty-One – Almost Famous directed by Cameron Crowe–another one of those movies I’ve always been aware of but have never seen. Time to give it a go!
Year Thirty-Two – Kate and Leopold directed by James Mangold–I don’t think I have that many romantic comedies on this list, and I’ve been curious about this one since I discovered James Mangold (Logan, Ford v. Ferrari) directed it.
Year Thirty-Three – Spirited Away directed by Hayao Miyazaki–I have never seen anything by Miyazaki, so it’s time to rectify that.
Year Thirty-Four – The Last Samurai directed by Edward Zwick–I’m not convinced about this historical action movie with Tom Cruise, but I’m willing to give it a go. I’m currently interested in things connected to Japan as well.
Year Thirty-Five – I Heart Huckabees directed by David O. Russell–an existential comedy about detectives hired to discover the meaning of their clients lives? What? Ok, count me in!
Year Thirty-Six – Thank You for Smoking directed by Jason Reitman–a satirical black comedy abuot a guy trying to spin cigarettes as a good thing. Could be interesting.
Year Thirty-Seven – Lady in the Water directed by M. Night Shyamalan–this is not supposed to be any good but it still has its supporters, and I’ve always been curious about this “fantasy drama psychological thriller” of a movie.
Year Thirty-Eight – The Grand directed by Zak Penn–an improv comedy about poker which I’m completely unfamiliar with, but willing to try out.
Year Thirty-Nine – Gran Torino – A film in Clint Eastwood’s canon of work that I have never seen.
Year Forty – The Perfect Game directed by William Dear–a true-story sports movie about Little League baseball.
Read Part Five here.