If there's one thing I know, it's that 10 years is a LONG TIME. I don't know about you, but I was a completely different person a decade ago. My clothes, my passions, my demeanor, my dreams and aspirations; they all seem so hilariously naive in retrospect. That said, I do still have one thing in common with my former self: my unwavering love for the movies. While some years are better than others for film, there's something magical about a truly great movie. It sparks emotion, imagination, and discussion that few mediums can replicate. I thought it would be fun to take a look at the evolution of the cinema over the last decade year by year; a film face-off, if you will. Keep in mind that I am only considering flicks that I have seen, so if your favorite indy doesn't make the list, fret not, as this showdown will not be comprehensive by any means.
So cue the music, ring the bell, and get ready for some boxing puns! This bout will be between the most recent full year, 2013, and it's 10-year junior, 2003. To make it easier to digest, the fight will be broken down into multiple parts, so make sure you savor every blow. Let's get ready to rummmbllleeeeeeee!!!!!
Round 1: Best Action Movie
2003: Once Upon A Time In Mexico Bad Boys II Oldboy Tears of the Sun The Rundown The Last Samurai
Recap: Several great flicks to choose from here. 2003 brought guilty pleasures like Johnny Depp's performance in Robert Rodriguez's Once Upon A Time In Mexico and Michael Bay's last good movie before turning into a action pornographer, Bad Boys II. There were also genuinely great films that were so good it almost feels unfair to classify them as "action" movies, like Chan-wook Park's unforgettable revenge tale, Oldboy, and Tom Cruise's dramatic war movie, The Last Samurai. A great year for explosions at the movies.
2013: The Lone Ranger 2 Guns Gangster Squad Olympus Has Fallen White House Down Pain & Gain
Recap: "Buzz, your girlfriend. Woof..." Coming off of 2003's roster, 2013 is damn near horrendous. The Lone Ranger was a long, boring mess, 2 Guns was forgettable despite the chemistry between Denzel and Mark Wahlberg, and Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down were the SAME movie (though I liked OHF better). I really enjoyed Gangster Squad the first time around, but the gloss faded a bit upon subsequent viewings to leave Sean Penn's performance as the only memorable part about the flick. Pain & Gain was so 'roided up and unique that I strangely enjoyed Michael Bay teaming with Mark Wahlberg and The Rock here, but if Pain & Gain is what 2013's hanging it's hat on, action movies are in trouble.
Main Event: Kill Bill: Vol 1 (2003) vs. Lone Survivor (2013)
Tale of the Tape: Quentin Tarantino's first attempt at making his perfect Western was Kill Bill: Vol 1, a much bloodier entry than its sequel. While I prefer Vol II, our introduction to "The Whole Bloody Affair" stands as Tarantino at his most comfortable: Uma Thurman kicking ass and spouting retro-pop-culture-laden one liners against a great soundtrack.
Peter Berg's Lone Survivor is much more of a pure action movie. I tore this one apart upon first viewing, but have since come around to its merit and bravado, given the true-to-life subject matter. While I can't believe this was the "best" action movie entry of 2013, it's a totally watchable movie.
Winner: By KO (eyeball removal) at the beginning of the 1st Round, Kill Bill: Vol 1. No contest.
Round 2: Best Animated Movie
2003: The Animatrix Brother Bear Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas Looney Tunes: Back in Action
Recap: Animated fare was not as prevalent with mainstream moviegoers 10 years ago as it is today, so it's "slim pickens" for 2003. The Animatrix, notably the short prequel to Matrix Reloaded, The Flight of the Osiris, fleshed out the storyline of the Matrix universe that the world clamored for back then and demonstrated several different animation styles. Sinbad showed signs of Dreamworks' ability to go toe-to-toe with Disney/Pixar in the animation arena by showcasing a star-studded cast and irresistable charm. Speaking of the House of Mouse, Brother Bear illustrated (pun intended) that Walt's Studios could remain relevant without Pixar and breathed life into hand-drawn animation. And Looney Tunes... happened.
2013: Monsters University Despicable Me 2 The Croods Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Recap: Fast forward to 2013, when animated movies are now tentpole events that studios see as legitimate money-makers. Monsters University was a loving ode to college that only Pixar could have pulled off, and while it was not as prolific as the original, I loved it. Despicable Me 2 was another great movie that doesn't get enough credit in the shadow of its predecessor. The Croods was good, though forgettable, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is entertaining, despite the fact that it comes no where near the brilliance of the first Cloudy. Good thing 2013 has an ace up its sleeve with the most successful animated film of all time…
Main Event: Finding Nemo (2003) vs. Frozen (2013)
Tale of the Tape: Phew, what a doozy. The story of two studios under the same house... How can you argue against the monstrous haymakers that Frozen has landed at the box office? It's a borderline great film that has the catchiest music we've heard in years from Disney.
But Finding Nemo is arguably my favorite Pixar film, with phenomenal voice acting all around, especially from Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres. Nemo was a huge hit that year, and even enjoyed success among newer films when it was re-released in 3D not long ago. It was beautiful, moving, funny, and compelling for all ages; a true achievement in film.
Winner: After going the distance in a bitter battle involving sharks and snowmen, the winner by split decision, Finding Nemo!!!!
In the early rounds, 2003 has landed some serious punches. Can 2013 come back later in the bout, or will 2003 prove that movies are getting worse as we get older? Tune in next week for Part II, when we take a look at the Best Sci-Fi and Best Comedy!
Did I miss one of your personal favorites? Is my movie barometer way off-base compared to yours? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section!