Without further ado, my top 10 viewings from this year, in ascending order, and with a sample quote from each:
10) American Splendor (2003) -- a biopic about Harvey Pekar, a regular Joe file clerk who got a short stint of fame in the 80s as a comic book author, and made multiple appearances on Letterman. The coolest thing about this movie was the style: part movie, part documentary, part animated film and it all blended together in exactly the right tone to sum up a very interesting man.
Quote: "We are going to get through this. I understand illness. I know how to handle these things."
9) Avatar (2009) -- we saw this one at the movies (in 3D, no less!) in January and loved the experience. Yes, the story is copied from dozens of other tales, but we got caught up in its magic, its setting, and its heart.
Quote: "It is decided. My daughter will teach you our ways. Learn well, "Jakesully", and we will see if your insanity can be cured. "8) Doubt (2008) -- perfect title to a movie that causes you to wonder which side to be on, which characters to root for, and in the end answers none of it. It's not your typical Hollywood tale wrapped up with a bow on it with comfortable closure, but it's powerhouse acting that touches on themes such as theology, sexuality, trust and power.
Quote: "Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. When you are lost, you are not alone. "
7) Eastern Promises (2007) -- if you'd never seen Viggo Mortensen before as an actor, you'd never believe he wasn't actually a Russian tough guy after seeing this film. It's typical Cronenberg style and the story arc is almost identical to a previous film also starring Viggo (History of Violence). But it's his total immersion in this deep and conflicted character that sticks with me months after seeing it.Quote: "Sentimental value? Ah. I heard of that. "
6) Michael Clayton (2007) -- a real grown-up tale of corporate/legal warfare, family dysfunction and a man who's lost his place in the world. Only one small explosion in the whole thing but it carried more weight than 1,000 Michael Bay-directed bombs. The final scenes are filled with palpable tension and a conclusion that is both satisfying and makes us wish for a sequel.
Quote: "Uncle Timmy- and I mean this- on his best day, he was never as tough as you. And I'm not talking about crying or the drugs. I'm talking about in his heart. You understand me? "
5) O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) -- an exact and hilarious homage to Homer's The Odyssey, with enough catchy music in it to fill your head for months. The only downside is that it sorta felt like a combination of great scenes instead of a cohesive movie, but this is often what you get with the Coen brothers' work.Quote: "That's not the issue Delmar. Even if that did put you square with the Lord, the State of Mississippi's a little more hard-nosed. "
4) How to Train Your Dragon (2010) -- My other theater viewing for the year, in a daddy/daughter date with Samantha. The amazing effects and visuals were only the surface of a surprisingly heartfelt story about believing in yourself, even if it means going against the grain of your community.
Quote: "Everything we know about you guys is wrong. "
3) Angels in America (2003) -- more of a miniseries, this is an HBO-produced translation of the Tony Award-winning play by Tony Kushner. I went to a speech/reading/Q&A by Kushner and he impressed me so much, I had to see some of his work. This one is a wrenching story of AIDS in New York City in the mid-80s, and doesn't take the easy way out with stereotypes for any of its characters.
Quote: "The white cracker who wrote the National Anthem knew what he was doing. He set the word 'free' to a note so high nobody could reach it."
2) Book of Eli (2010) -- big surprise, as I thought this would be a shallow action flick. I found myself connected to the story of a man with a mission, while also empathizing greatly with the "bad guy". And it had my favorite twist ending of the year.
Quote: "In all these years I've been carrying it and reading it every day, I got so caught up in keeping it safe that I forgot to live by what I learned from it."
1) Ink (2009) -- made on a nothing budget by a husband/wife producer and director team, it was the best bang-for-the-buck movie I've probably ever seen. Granted, its narrative lasers directly at a hard-working, career-pulled, spiritually-minded dad like me, and I recognize that. So your opinions might vary if you saw the movie. But it was far and away my favorite of the year, and perhaps the one on this list I'll actually buy. If you decide to give it a try, please be patient with it and understand that as the viewer you're supposed to be lost for a while, and the story gets clearer and clearer as it goes.
Quote: Sorry, the internet wasn't helpful here! I have a few general quotes in my head but they're surely not exact.
Honorable mentions: Persepolis, Zombieland, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Inglorious Basterds
Disappointments: District 9 (good, but overhyped), Surrogates (when will sci-fi movie producers respect our brains again?), Old Dogs (total paycheck-cashing travesty), The Wrestler (good, but did Mickey Rourke really need to act?)