Shimes' Sell-Out Hollywood Shill Top Ten-or-So Movies of 2003,

or

Thanks to Jack Valenti, I Have to Pimp For Low-Brow Pop Culture Crap

I live in Springfield, Missouri, so unless I get screeners (Altman, I'm still waiting on my copy of The Company!), I don't see anything but mainstream Hollywood releases, except when I travel out of town and have time to stop by the Tivoli. In fact, we've got one video store in town (Showcase Movies) that even gets indie/foriegn stuff. I would love to have seen The Fog of War or The Station Agent, but until the folks at Wehrenberg or Goodrich decide that it's worth sacrificing one screen of eight or sixteen for Girl With a Pearl Earring instead of another showing of Cheaper By the Dozen, my top ten list is going to consist of Hollywood movies and whatever screeners I get for being a member of the Online Film Critics Society. Actually, three of eight movies I got screeners of will end up on my top ten list--but that's not the point. The point is that screeners are just cool. As JimmyO says, chicks just absolutely dig these things! I mean, after my girlfriend beat up an old lady to score one of those forty dollar DVD players at Wal-Mart, the first thing I did was burn off copies of Girl With a Pearl Earring and Shattered Glass for her! Let me tell you, there's nothing like minor movies from independent studios to really spice things up in the sack! Thanks for nothing, Mr. Valenti!

Actually, I made all that up. I don't even know how to burn DVDs, nor would I anyway. Why does Jack Valenti think we're all so hot to pirate The Cooler to all our friends? My girlfriend tries to pretend that I don't have a dopey movie review website, and she sure as hell doesn't read it, so why does Jack Valenti insist that I'm going to burn off Pieces of April for her? That just goes to show how out-of-touch Jack Valenti is with the film community, which I tell my dopier friends I'm a part of. I mean, without screeners, how the hell are the filmsnobs supposed to compose an accurate top ten list for our parents and excessively polite co-workers? Well, just like a burned-off screener of Swimming Pool, I'm going to steal directly from JimmyO and do part of my Top Ten by categories. Because there's so much Hollywood crap for me to shill to all of our devoted readers, but unlike Harry Knowles, we don't get cheap sex from random skanks for our time. Unless they REALLY want to see 21 Grams a month early, if you get my drift!

10. The Will Ferrell/Seann William Scott Three-Pack: Elf, Old School, and The Rundown

Wow, that's the way to come out of the chute sounding like a real film critic, huh? Well, screw you--film critics always says stuff like "It's harder to do comedy than drama" and then we never give any awards to comedies. So here's two of my favorite guys in Hollywood movies whom I get a big kick out of. The Rundown passed the torch, literally, from the Governator to The People's Champion. The action movie has become so hyperbolic and ironic that the generation of action star is going to have to be some combination of Ah-nold and Jackie Chan, and The Rock fits the bill. As for Old School, it really could have been much better if it had tried to be a wacky Fight Club. To admit, I gave it just three stars (and that was generous), but Will Ferrell's performance as Frank the Tank is one for the ages. Couple that with his absurdist turn in Elf, and Will Ferrell has established himself as the comedic icon of Gen X confusion.

Shimes' Reviews of The Rundown, Old School, and Elf

9. Mystic River

A real actors movie, which Clint Eastwood doesn't overdirect. Rather, he turns his camera to his superior cast and let's them bring the material to life, in addition to some effective set design that releases Eastwood from resorting to camera hysterics. A quiet, rich movie that may pick up as many as four acting nominations.

Shimes' Review of Mystic River

8. The Kids' Movies: Finding Nemo and Whale Rider

The folks at Pixar show that you don't have to resort to hard-on jokes (I'm looking at you, Shrek and The Cat in the Hat) to make money. Also, Whale Rider manages to be "inspiring" without being contrived, thanks to a textured script and some great performances.

Shimes' Reviews of Finding Nemo and Whale Rider

7. Getting the Led Out: A Mighty Wind and School of Rock

A Mighty Wind didn't get near enough credit from critics. It's Christopher Guest's deepest movie to date; its characters describe the evolution of the hippy spirit to the rampantly materialistic baby boomers of today. In a time when war protests in American mysteriously never materialized, the movie taps into something important about our culture. As for School of Rock, Richard Linklater shows us that it's not tests that make the classroom, it's the teacher. You can give a kid a test, which doesn't prove a thing--but Jack Black himself makes sure that he Leaves No Child Behind. Take a lesson, Mr. Bush.

Shimes' Reviews of A Mighty Wind and School of Rock

6. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Sure, Russell is great, but the unsung name in this awards season is Paul Bettany, the first mate of the Surprise. The movie is meditative (though the action is spectacular), which is carried by Bettany's performance as the bird-watching doctor who stands between the old traditions and the modern world. The review is coming, I promise, but for now, here's The Pitch:

2 Gallipoli + 2 Das Boot = 4 Master and Commander

5. The Comic Book Movies: American Splendor, The Hulk, and X-Men 2

I don't understand film critics. First, we say "These summer blockbusters suck because there's nothing but stuff blowin' up good", and then Ang Lee makes a mutli-levelled, intellectually intense blockbuster, and all we can say is "Too much talky...not enough SMASHY!" Whatever. But X-Men...I don't know a damn thing about these comics, but I do know that if they make another two or three of these, Bryan Singer has planted enough plot and character seeds to make it last without stretching thin. And, hey, ain't it great that Rupert Murdoch paid for this anti-Patriot Act movie? As for American Splendor, wasn't it great to see that old footage of David Letterman's "Late Night" show--you know, back when he was still funny?

Shimes' Reviews of The Hulk and X-Men 2

4. Girl With a Pearl Earring

Unlike Mona Lisa Smile, a movie actually about art. Scarlett Johansson is the best of the young actresses--period. Here, she embodies one of the most famous figures in all of Western art. This historical fiction is actually a multi-levelled essay on the symbolism and context of the painting, but if that doesn't excite you, then watch it to enjoy the subtle, erotic-without-touching relationship between Johansson and Colin Firth.

Shimes' Review of Girl With a Pearl Earring

3. Lost in Translation

A deeply personal and affecting film. Unlike Ghost World, this film finds more truth by showing the tentative affection of the two leads rather than actually consumating it. I will get to the review shortly, but let me just give you The Pitch for now:

1 Nick the Lounge Singer + 1 "Banzai" + 1 Ghost World + 1 The Virgin Suicides = 4 Lost in Translation

2. The Documentary: Capturing the Friedmans, Spellbound, and Winged Migration

Whatever you might think of Bowling for Columbine or Michael Moore, he deserves some credit for making the distribution of documentaries financially viable. In fact, Michael Moore's stock has plummeted at Filmsnobs since last year's Oscars, in which he exploited the makers of Spellbound and Winged Migration (along with the other two Best Documentary nominees) by bringing them onstage to rant about Bush. I'm not against ranting about Bush (give me a few beers and get me started), but Michael Moore has descended into a caricature of himself, increasingly manipulating data to make his points--when it's the bare truth, Mr. Moore, without histrionics, that is the most damning. Had I seen The Fog of War, Errol Morris' documentary-interview with Vietnam architect Robert McNamara, I'll bet that's what we'd see. But since I didn't get a screener for it, I just have to assume. Please, Mr. Valenti--let them send me a screener! Before my forty dollar DVD player burns up!

Spellbound is more than just a random assembly of kids who made it to the National Spelling Bee--it uses a distinctly American phenomenon as a metaphor for what it means to be an American. Winged Migration is probably the most amazing film I've seen this year--amazing because, although the visual effects of Hollywood might be dazzling, you can believe that computers can do almost anything. Here, though, these are real birds, real nature, as we've never seen it before. That's far more amazing than any Hulk-smashing or Wolverine-clawing. As for Capturing the Friedmans...well, if you've ever wanted to see a family embroiled in child molestation accusations film their own disintigration, then this is your movie.

Shimes' Review of Spellbound

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Probably the greatest cinematic triumph of my lifetime. The review is coming; I'm going to discuss the specific triumphs of these movies and why Jackson's adaptations are significant in comparison to the books. Besides, I had to name this number one because there was no Spielberg movie to gush over this year. The review needs another edit or two, so this link might be down for a bit.

Shimes Review of The Return of the King