My Life in Film: Part Three
Chris Gould's series continues with part three of the movies that shaped his life...
1997: Starship Troopers
This is another odd year, in that I didn't realise how many major films were released in 1997. Some of the more memorable ones include The Fifth Element, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Boogie Nights, Gattaca (a recent discovery), Jackie Brown and L.A. Confidential. In fact, Tarantino's Jackie Brown would have made the top spot if not for the presence of Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers. Space Nazis travel to the other side of the galaxy to fight giant bugs. What's not to like?
1998: The Big Lebowski
Blade, American History X, BASEketball and Orgazmo provide the guilty pleasures for this year, as do Deep Rising and The Faculty (the last two because I watched them endlessly on cable when I moved into my own house). I'll always have a soft spot for Lost in Space because it was one of the first DVDs I ever owned (as part of a triple pack with The Shawshank Redemption and The Mask). My favourite Phantasm film, Oblivion, arrived in this year, as did Ronin and the silly antics of the original Rush Hour. Of course '98 also saw the release of the critically acclaimed Saving Private Ryan. However, the number one spot goes to the Dude, in the Coens hugely enjoyable comedy. It's a film that's really grown on me over the years and is the comedy that I'm most likely to pull out if I fancy a good laugh (infact I recently bought the HD DVD release).
1999: The Matrix
1999 always sticks in my mind as a particularly good year for films. It was, of course, the summer of Star Wars because of the release of The Phantom Menace, but '99 also saw the arrival of The Mummy, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Being John Malkovich, Dogma, Galaxy Quest, The Green Mile, Magnolia, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and Fight Club. Now they're all great movies, but the only film that actually delivered something I'd never seen before was The Matrix, with its blend of high-tech special effects and traditional martial arts. To this day it remains one of my favourite films and I really bought into the mythos of the franchise.
2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
After the greatness of 1999, 2000 was a bit of a let-down (both cinematically and life in general). Battle Royale, X-Men, American Psycho and Memento were all decent enough, but the film I look back on most fondly is Crouching Tiger. I wasn't really into Asian cinema back in those days and this was the first time I'd seen a big-budget wushu film on the cinema screen, but I really enjoyed the mix of martial arts and stunning cinematography. Oh, and it introduced me to Zhang Ziyi, for which I am eternally grateful. Having recently watched the Blu-ray release I can safely say that it's lost none of its charm in the intervening years (and neither has Ziyi).
2001: Donnie Darko
Okay, so I'm sure everyone expected me to pick The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring as my choice for this year, but I went with Donnie Darko. It's a brilliant little film that requires you to think rather than passively absorb events (at least in its theatrical cut form). It's just a pity that director Richard Kelly has failed to live up to the high standards he set with his début film. This year's guilty pleasure comes in the form of Evolution (it's like Ghostbusters with aliens, although not as good), while Ghost World ticked the 'quirky' quirky box with great turns from Steve Buscemi, Thora Birch and a (then) relatively-unknown Scarlett Johansson.
2002: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
2002 was a relatively decent year for films. I enjoyed Zhang Yimou's martial arts epic Hero, while The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers built on the success of the first film (even if I do prefer the longer cut). Spider-Man proved that it was possible to make a half-decent film about the wall-crawler, and Blade II introduced me to Guillermo del Toro and provided a great action flick at the same time (although my memories are tainted because my house was robbed while I was at the cinema watching it). The Bourne Identity reminded me just how ridiculous the Bond franchise had become, the underrated Spielberg film Catch Me If You Can was a surprise find and Punch-Drunk Love proved that Adam Sandler had one decent film in him. However, I still had to go for the Star Wars film. After the disappointment of The Phantom Menace I welcomed the larger scale and increased action, although I could have done without the general crapness of the love story.
This year was also a decent one, with Tarantino's incredibly hyped Kill Bill: Volume 1 doing just about enough to hold my interest, even if it did feel like someone cut the film in half to generate more revenue (oh wait, they did). The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was a predictable Oscar-winner, while X2: X-Men United proved that superhero movies could be both intelligent and entertaining. I'm the one person who enjoyed both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (yes, really), and Finding Nemo was the first Pixar film I really got into. However, it is a little-known Korean film based on a Japanese manga that takes the top spot. I missed it in 2003, but caught it a year or so later on DVD and it has since become one of my favourite films.
2004: Team America: World Police
Yet another decent year. In fact, 2004 was a pretty damn good year. Shaun of the Dead was a front-runner for the top spot, but that was until I remembered Parker and Stone's marionette movie, which is still one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Honourable mentions also go to Kill Bill: Volume 2, Sideways, The Incredibles (my personal favourite from the Pixar stable), The Bourne Supremacy, the Dawn of the Dead remake, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Garden State (hey, it's Natalie Portman), Hellboy, Kung Fu Hustle and Spider-Man 2, which is among the best superhero films around.
2005: Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
There were some really big event films in 2005. George Lucas finally unveiled the final part of his live-action saga with Revenge of the Sith, Sin City was a comic book brought to life on the screen, and Batman Begins washed away the bad memories of the Schumacher years. However, It is yet another film from Korean director Park Chan-wook that sticks in the mind. While Sympathy for Lady Vengeance seems to be the most derided of his 'Vengeance Trilogy', I personally thought it was a great film and I thoroughly enjoyed Lee Yeong-ae's performance.
2006 was probably the last great year in cinema for me. It was a year when I wasn't disappointed by any of the big-budget event movies and I was surprised by a number of films that I wouldn't normally have bothered to see. Obviously I have to mention the Oscar-winning The Departed, along with The Prestige, Blood Diamond, Superman Returns (I like it), Apocalypto, Children of Men and Casino Royale, but I was also enchanted by Little Miss Sunshine and Pan's Labyrinth. Slither provided the comedic horror, but my pick of the year has to be Dreamgirls. I've never been a huge musicals fan, but this was probably the most fun I had at the cinema all year and the songs (and vocal talent) still amaze me. Plus, I sort of have a thing for Jennifer Hudson...
2007: Hot Fuzz
I'm finding it easier to remember films from the more recent years in this list, so I have quite a few favourites from 2007. Lars and the Real Girl was a quirky, brilliant comedy, 300 was a graphic novel come to life, Amy Adams delighted in Enchanted (although I thought she was Isla Fisher when I first saw the poster), Fincher's Zodiac was compelling viewing, Matt Damon was on fine form with The Bourne Ultimatum, and Charlie Wilson's War was the most enjoyable Tom Hanks film since Catch Me if You Can. Of course I can't forget the two heavyweights of the year, the Best Picture-winning No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. However, for all of these heavyweight films, I ended up going with a British comedy from the guys who brought us Shaun of the Dead (partly because I felt guilty about snubbing them in '04).
Well that's another ten years over and done with. I enjoyed looking back over this period of my life, as it was really the first time in this series that can can honestly say that I remember exactly where and when I saw all of the films. Again, some of the selections surprised me, because more 'worthy' films have lost out to movies that I keep going back to time and time again (with 2006's Dreamgirls being the best example). I hope you enjoyed reminiscing with me once again, and that you'll join me in part four of this list. However, with only two years to write about so far, it may take some time to appear. Having said that, there's every chance that I'll write it as some sort of work-in-progress. We shall see...
Editorial by Chris Gould
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