Motion Picture Seasons
Where comparing motion pictures to NBA seasons happens.
Judgment for a decade’s definitive and most memorable athletes (/cinematic releases) falls under a different scrutiny than that of any individual calendar year. For the decade review, we need to ask broader but far more probing questions.
Below are 100 (no, better make that three dozen… with a lot of filler) transcendent seasons, taken from all levels of play (well, U.S. domestic play only, otherwise you have to open up a global can of worms – and that’s to expansive for this blogger). The hierarchy for these rankings is based on the logic that states high school basketball is easier to dominate than college, which in turn is easier than the pros (given the obvious funneling of talent at each stage. I know you know this but it kind of feels like it needs to be said anyway).
As a self-confessed film fanatic, I’ve married each of these respective hoop seasons with the 100 best movies of the decade (which far more accurate and easier to calculate). Why? Because it’s an interesting grouping that retains a high level of mass appeal without appearing contrived (fingers crossed). It also helps demonstrate excellence (in both fields) because cinematic distinction is much like basketball brilliance in that both fields have their respective All-Stars, both evolve around a level of team play; both thrive in star aligned situation; both have their share of politics and reliance on timing/hype; both include the need for accurate ground work and above all else, both are endless pursuits of quality that subsequently reveals talent and character.
Note: Any coloration between the film and the athlete is purely coincidental, unless of course it’s intentional. Enjoy.
100 BEST BASKETBALL SEASONS/FILMS OF THE DECADE
Player: Lamar Odom – NBA (Los Angeles Lakers). 2008.
Film: The Fog Of War – Errol Morris (2003)
Player: Courtney Paris – NCAA (Oklahoma Sooners). 2006.
Film: Mystic River – Clint Eastwood (2003)
Player: Rashard Lewis – NBA (Orlando Magic). 2009.
Film: Knocked Up – Judd Apatow (2005)
Player: Katie Smith – WNBA (Minnesota Lynx). 2003.
Film: Donnie Darko – Richard Kelly (2001)
Player: Kemba Walker – Playground (NYC). 2007.
Film: Munich – Steven Spielberg (2005)
Player: Brad Miller – NBA (Sacramento Kings). 2004.
Film: Somersault – Cate Shortland (2004)
Player: Stephen Jackson – NBA (Golden State Warriors). 2008.
Film: American Psycho – Mary Harron (2000)
Player: Natalie Williams – WNBA (Utah Starzz). 2000.
Film: Vals Im Bashir (Waltz With Bashir) – Ari Folman (2008)
Player: Antawn Jamison – NBA (Washington Wizards). 2008.
Film: Monster – Patty Jenkins (2003)
Player: Michael Finley – NBA (Dallas Mavericks). 2000.
Film: Dogtown and Z Boys – Stacy Peralta (2001)
Player: David West – NBA (New Orleans Hornets). 2008.
Film: Irréversible – Gaspar Noé (2002)
Player: Jamal Mashburn – NBA (New Orleans Hornets). 2003.
Film: Dig! – Ondi Timoner (2004)
Player: Dikembe Mutombo – NBA (Philadelphia 76ers). 2001.
Film: Meet The Parents – Jay Roach (2000)
Player: Caron Butler – NBA (Washington Wizards). 2008.
Film: The Proposition – John Hillcoat (2005)
Player: Cynthia Cooper – WNBA (Houston Comets). 2000.
Film: Burn After Reading – Joel and Ethan Coen (2008)
Player: Danny Granger – NBA (Indiana Pacers). 2009.
Film: X2: X-Men United - Bryan Singer (2002)
Player: Brandon Roy – NBA (Portland Trail Blazers). 2009.
Film: Tigerland – Joel Schumacher (2000)
Player: Derrick Rose – NBA (Chicago Bulls). 2009.
Film: Erin Brockovich – Steven Soderbergh (2000)
Player: Marcus Camby – NBA (Denver Nuggets). 2007.
Film: Sen To Chihiro No Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) – Hayao Miyazaki (2001)
Player: Joe Johnson – NBA (Atlanta Hawks). 2008.
Film: District 9 – Neill Blomkamp (2009)
Player: Becky Hammon – WNBA (San Antonio Silver Stars). 2007.
Film: Apocalypto - Mel Gibson (2006)
Player: Pau Gasol – NBA (Memphis Grizzlies). 2006.
Film: Grizzly Man – Werner Herzog (2005)
Player: Allan Houston – NBA (New York Knicks). 2003.
Film: Superbad – Greg Mottola (2007)
Player: Seimone Augustus – WNBA (Minnesota Lynx). 2007.
Film: Road to Perdition – Sam Mendes (2002)
Player: Deron Williams – NBA (Utah Jazz). 2008.
Film: The Wrestler – Darren Aronofsky (2008)
Player: Carlos Boozer – NBA (Utah Jazz). 2007.
Film: The Royal Tenenbaums – Wes Anderson (2001)
Player: Yolanda Griffith – WNBA (Sacramento Monarchs). 2006.
Film: The Pianist – Roman Polanski (2002)
Player: Michael Jordan – NBA (Washington Wizards). 2002.
Film: Best In Show – Christopher Guest (2000)
Player: Rasheed Wallace – NBA (Portland Trail Blazers). 2002.
Film: Ocean’s Eleven – Steven Soderbergh (2001)
Player: Stephen Curry – NCAA (Davidson College). 2009.
Film: Memento - Christopher Nolan (2000)
Player: Drew Gooden – NCAA (Kansas Jayhawks). 2002.
Film: Monsters, Inc. – David Silverman, Lee Unkrich, Peter Docter (2001)
Player: Chauncey Billups – NBA (Detroit Pistons). 2006.
Film: The Orphanage – Juan Antonio Bayona (2008)
Player: Richard Hamilton – NBA (Detroit Pistons). 2006.
Film: Little Miss Sunshine – Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris (2006)
Player: Michael Redd – NBA (Milwaukee Bucks). 2006.
Film: Y Tu Mama Tambien – Alfonso Cuaron (2001)
Player: Chris Bosh – NBA (Toronto Raptors). 2007.
Film: The Aviator – Martin Scorsese (2004)
Player: Tina Thompson – WNBA (Houston Comets). 2004.
Film: Mulholland Drive – David Lynch (2001)
Player: Tony Parker – NBA. (San Antonio Spurs). 2009.
Film: Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgandy – Adam McKay (2001)
Player: Sam Cassell – NBA (Minnesota Timberwolves). 2004.
Film: Cidade De Deus (City Of God) – Fernando Meirelles (2002)
Player: Andrei Kirilenko – NBA (Utah Jazz). 2006.
Film: Grindhouse - Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino (2007)
Player: Manu Ginobili – NBA (San Antonio Spurs). 2008.
Film: Ghost World – Terry Zwigoff (2001)
Player: Karl Malone – NBA (Utah Jazz). 2000.
Film: The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford – Andrew Dominik (2007)
Player: Baron Davis – NBA (New Orleans Hornets). 2004.
Film: (500) Days Of Summer – Marc Webb (2009)
Player: Amar’e Stoudemire – NBA (Phoenix Suns). 2005.
Film: Låt Den Rätte Komma In (Let The Right One In) – Tomas Alfredson (2008)
Player: Eddie Jones – NBA (Charlotte Hornets). 2000.
Film: Downfall - Oliver Hirschbiegel (2004)
Player: Stephon Marbury – NBA (New York Knicks). 2004.
Film: Oldboy – Chan-wook Park (2003)
Player: Jalen Rose – NBA (Indiana Pacers). 2001.
Film: Murderball – Henry Alex Rubin & Dana Adam Shaprio (2005)
Player: Andrew Bogut – NCAA (Utah Utes). 2005.
Film: Before Night Falls – Julian Schnabel (2000)
Player: Tyler Hansbrough – NCAA (North Carolina Tar Heels) 2008.
Film: Lost In Translation – Sofia Coppola (2003)
Player: Tamika Catchings – WNBA (Indiana Fever). 2005.
Film: American Splendor – Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (2003)
Player: Joakim Noah – NCAA (Florida Gators). 2006.
Film: Milk – Gus Van Sant (2008)
Player: Shawn Marion – NBA (Phoenix Suns). 2006.
Film: The Incredibles – Brad Bird (2004)
Player: Juan Dixon – NCAA (Maryland Terrapins). 2002.
Film: Standard Operating Procedure – Errol Morris (2008)
Player: Jerry Stackhouse – NBA (Detroit Pistons). 2001.
Film: Infernal Affairs – Wai-keung Lau & Siu Fai Mak (2002)
Player: Jermaine O’Neal – NBA (Indiana Pacers). 2003.
Film: The Squid And The Whale – Noah Baumbach (2005)
Player: Grant Hill – NBA (Orlando Magic). 2000.
Film: 25th Hour – Spike Lee (2003)
Player: Steve Francis - NBA (Houston Rockets). 2002.
Film: Brokeback Mountain – Ang Lee (2005)
Player: Elton Brand – NBA (Los Angeles Clippers). 2006.
Film: Casino Royale – Martin Campbell (2006)
Player: Gary Payton – NBA (Seattle SuperSonics). 2000.
Film: Changeling – Clint Eastwood (2008)
Player: Antoine Walker – NBA (Boston Celtics). 2001.
Film: Capturing The Friedmans – Andrew Jarecki (2004)
Player: JJ Redick – NCAA (Duke Blue Devils). 2006.
Film: Hable Con Ella (Talk To Her) – Pedro Almodovar (2002)
Player: Shane Battier – NCAA (Duke Blue Devils). 2001.
Film: Kenny – Clayton Jacobson (2006)
Player: Alonzo Mourning – NBA (Miami Heat). 2000.
Film: Dawn Of The Dead – Zach Synder (2004)
Player: Emeka Okafor – NCAA (Connecticut Huskies). 2004.
Film: About Schmidt – Alexander Payne (2002)
Player: Paul Pierce – NBA (Boston Celtics). 2002.
Film: Match Point – Woody Allen (2005)
Player: Adam Morrison – NCAA (Gonzaga Bulldogs). 2006.
Film: The Bourne Ultimatum – Paul Greengrass (2007)
Player: Ron Artest – NBA (Indiana Pacers) 2004.
Film: Babel – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (2006)
Player: Peja Stojakovic – NBA (Sacramento Kings). 2004.
Film: Sin City – Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez with Quentin Tarantino (2005)
Player: T.J. Ford – NCAA (Texas Longhorns). 2003.
Film: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Peter Jackson (2002)
Player: Yao Ming – NBA (Houston Rockets). 2008.
Film: Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan – Larry Charles (2006)
Player: Ray Allen – NBA (Milwaukee Bucks). 2001.
Film: Juno – Jason Reitman (2007)
Player: Dirk Nowitzki – NBA (Dallas Mavericks) 2006.
Film: Kill Bill – Quentin Tarantino (2003)
Player: Maya Moore – NCAA (Connecticut Huskies). 2009.
Film: Traffic - Steven Soderbergh (2000)
Player: Blake Griffin – NCAA (Oklahoma Sooners). 2009.
Film: The Pledge - Sean Penn (2001)
Player: Vince Carter – NBA (Toronto Raptors). 2001.
Film: Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amélie Poulain (Amelie) – Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001)
Player: Lisa Leslie – WNBA (Los Angeles Sparks) 2001.
Film: Fahrenheit 9/11 – Michael Moore (2004)
Player: Chris Webber – NBA (Sacramento Kings) 2001.
Film: Volver – Pedro Almodovar (2006)
Player: Ben Wallace – NBA (Detroit Pistons). 2003.
Film: El Labirinto Del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) – Guillermo del Toro (2006)
Player: Jay Williams – NCAA (Duke Blue Devils). 2001.
Film: Into The Wild – Sean Penn (2007)
Player: Sheryl Swoopes – WNBA (Houston Comets). 2005.
Film: The Lives of Others – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (2006)
Player: Gilbert Arenas – NBA (Washington Wizards) 2006.
Film: Zodiac – David Fincher (2007)
Player: Dwight Howard – NBA (Orlando Magic). 2008.
Film: 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days – Christian Mungiu (2007)
Player: Jameer Nelson – NCAA (St Joseph’s Hawks). 2004.
Film: Almost Famous – Cameron Crowe (2000)
Player: Jason Kidd – NBA (New Jersey Nets). 2003.
Film: Finding Nemo – Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich (2003)
Player: Sue Bird – NCAA (Connecticut Huskies). 2002.
Film: Hunger - Steve McQueen (2008)
Player: Michael Beasley – NCAA (Kansas State Wildcats). 2008.
Film: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind – Michel Gondry (2004)
Player: Lauren Jackson – WNBA (Seattle Storm). 2007.
Film: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Peter Jackson (2003)
Player: Dwyane Wade – NBA (Miami Heat). 2009.
Film: Good Night, And Good Luck – George Clooney (2005)
Player: Kevin Durant. NCAA (Texas Longhorns). 2007.
Film: Man On Wire – James Marsh (2008)
Player: Carmelo Anthony – NCAA (Syracuse Orangeman). 2003.
Film: Team America: World Police – Trey Parker & Matt Stone (2004)
Player: Candace Parker – WNBA (Los Angeles Sparks). 2008.
Film: Requiem For A Dream – Darren Aronofsky (2000)
Player: Tim Duncan – NBA (San Antonio Spurs). 2003.
Film: The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring – Peter Jackson (2001)
Player: Steve Nash – NBA (Phoenix Suns). 2007.
Film: Chopper – Andrew Dominik (2000)
Player: Tracy McGrady – NBA (Orlando Magic). 2003.
Film: United 93 – Paul Greengrass (2006)
Player: Diana Taurasi – WNBA (Phoenix Mercury). 2009.
Film: No Country For Old Men – Joel and Ethan Coen (2007)
Player: Chris Paul – NBA (New Orleans Hornets). 2008.
Film: WALL-E – Andrew Stanton (2008)
Player: Kevin Garnett – NBA (Minnesota Timberwolves). 2004.
Film: The 40 Year Old Virgin – Judd Apatow (2005)
Player: Allen Iverson – NBA (Philadelphia 76ers). 2001.
Film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Ang Lee (2000)
Player: Shaquille O’Neal – NBA (Los Angeles Lakers). 2000.
Film: The Dark Knight – Christopher Nolan (2008)
Player: LeBron James – NBA (Cleveland Cavaliers). 2009.
Film: Million Dollar Baby – Clint Eastwood (2004)
Player: Kobe Bryant – NBA (Los Angeles Lakers). 2006.
Film: There Will Be Blood – Paul Thomas Anderson (2007)
FIVE CINEMATIC DECADE DEFINING TRENDS/GENRES
What does the following have to do with basketball you might ask? Short answer: almost nothing, unless of course you read the Documentary film section. Given the extensive work and time that went into compiling the 100 best films of the decade, I discovered the following trends and figured it best to share this with you all, just in case your love of the motion picture runs as deeply as mine. Enjoy.
Just how big was Animation this decade? Big enough that the Academy was forced to introduce Animation as it’s own category, invariable due to its popularity/consistent excellence. Rolling out more often than celebrity sex tapes, the Animated features won over audiences of all ages (and both genders) this decade with Hollywood heavyweights happily offering their unique and recognizable voices at every turn.
Disney’s golden (step) child, Pixar Animation Studios became the decade’s definition of commercial success while defining cinematic ingenuity. Their run of Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), Wall-E (2008) and Up (2009) reshaped the landscape and altered perceptions in the process. Thanks to Pixar, it became cool for adults to drag their children along to animated features whenever school holiday’s rolled around.
Dreamworks’ Animation Studio try and de-throne Pixar with their much loved anti-fable Shrek. It’s sequels, Shrek 2 and Shrek: The Third, helped the series become the most successful animated trilogy in US Box Office History.
20th Century Fox’s Animation Studio struck their own oil field with the loveable trilogy Ice Age (which spawned sequels The Meltdown and Dawn Of The Dinosaurs). Other noteworthy animated features included the Oscar winning Happy Feet by Australian Director George Miller; as well as the near classic Kung Fu Panda. There was Horton Hears A Who!, The Emperor’s New Groove, The Simpson’s Movie, Chicken Run, Monster House and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.
There was the pain staking/time consuming claymation films: Mary & Max; Wallace And Gromit: The Curse Of The Were Rabbit; Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and the extraordinary feature Coraline – which along with motion capture features Beowulf and Pixar’s Up, respectively, ushered in the newest (and coolest) tool to hang from the animation belt, 3-D. This extra dimensional venture also became part of the cinematic experience’s need to separate itself from the ever improving digital home entertainment market.
The decade also witnessed a slew of run of the mill animated features including Surf’s Up; Monsters vs. Aliens; Madagascar (and it’s sequel Madagascar: Back 2 Africa); Over The Hedge; Chicken Little; Robots; Open Season; Bee Movie; Bolt; Space Chimps; Igor; Flushed Away and Brother Bear. Not without its stinkers, the decade also gave us the terrible Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, The Polar Express and Shark Tale.
Proving it’s not just a family phenomenon, mature and foreign language animated features like the magnetic Triplets of Belleville; the disturbing and graphic Princess; the powerful Waltz With Bashir; the delightful Persepolis, and Richard Linklater’s excellent thought provoking duo, A Scanner Darkly and Waking/Life, all found their respective audiences.
Cinema patrons were also allowed to enjoy new Asian based animated features thanks to the highly successful Spirited Away, which opened the gates for Steamboy, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo and others from the famed Miyazaki stable. Even contemporary auteur Quentin Tarrantino aptly called upon Animation to tell the most violent portion of O’Ren Ishii’s back story early on in his fourth feature, Kill Bill.
While Animation maestro Brad Bird maintains that animation is simply a technique of filmmaking and not a genre, one can’t ignore or dismiss the power that animated features showcased this decade, regardless of whether or not they’re viewed as serious adult cinema.
2. The Rise (and Rise) of the Comic Book Film
From the highly stylized (and almost literal page to screen translation) that was Frank Miller’s Sin City to the more somber and teen angst ridden real world inspired graphic novel turned silver screen feature Ghost World, the Naughties witnessed an unprecedented roll out of comic book themed films.
Falling over themselves to green light the next big comic book franchise, Studios released more than 20 different comic book franchises this decade… with the promise of more to come.
The decade began with Marvel Studios most popular comic book title of all time, X-Men, finally receiving it’s long awaited big screen depiction. With Hollywood golden boy Bryan Singer at the helm, the ruggedly dreamy Hugh Jackman in the lead and veteran Ian McKellan adding credibility, it didn’t take long for other established directors (and serious actors) to try their hand at a “Comic Book” film.
Fittingly, due to the success of Marvel Comics film division, and their commercially successfully projects – the fore mentioned X-Men; its superior sequel X2: X-Men United; the muddled X-Men: The Last Stand; the unforgivably bad X-Men Origins: Wolverine; the campy Fantastic Four and its follow up, Fantastic Four: The Rise Of The Silver Surfer; not to mention the post 9/11 American salute and box office trailblazer Spider-Man and its progressively weaker sequels (who two more in the pipeline), Marvel’s maestro Stan Lee closed out the decade by selling all of his Marvel properties to multi national conglomerate Disney.
In what can only be a called a “smart” and “necessary” commercial move by Lee, rather than a “greedy” and “hostile” corporate takeover by Disney, the selling off of Marvel’s properties ensures the brand’s film division remains viable, despite its backbone, print based media, taking a hit during the decades economic recession. The move by now parent company Disney also helps them corner the teenage male market, which competing studio Warner Bros. has over them thanks to their ownership of Marvel’s biggest rival, DC Comics. The multi billion selling off of Marvel ensures Lee’s characters live together forever (for now)… or at least until someone makes Disney the right offer.
Speaking of DC, the Naughties saw them revamp their famed heavyweight franchises Superman and Batman, respectively with Superman Returns, the highly successful Batman Begins and its superior sequel, the decade defining masterpiece The Dark Knight.
Other noteworthy comic book and graphic novels films that were given life in the double zero decade included Hellboy and its equal sequel, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army; the brutal but homoerotic 300; religious drama Constantine, the wonderfully off beat American Splendor; the political V for Vendetta; the surprising A History Of Violence; star studded Iron Man; vampire adventure 30 Days Of Night; the masterstroke Road To Perdition; ‘90s carryovers Blade II and Blade: Trinity; the under whelming Daredevil and last but certainly not least, the consensus greatest graphic novel of all time, Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Despite being fairly faithful conversions (for the most part), the Comic Book film well and truly reached new heights, and The Dark Knight’s US box office placing can attest to that.
Interestingly, and proof of the genre’s growing power, Marvel Comic’s saw two of their star anti-heroes The Incredible Hulk and The Punisher both receive do-overs within five years of their initial cinematic release [and in the case of The Punisher, it’s actually the third non successful attempt to bring the vigilante to the silver screen]. Speaking of failures, the kryptonite of comic book films, the forgettable Hancock and Ghost Rider were both dumped on unsuspecting cinema patrons. The finest comic book hour however may have been little recognized gem, M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, which snuck by most way back in 2000.
By the end of the decade, comic book films had become such a major force, that subsequently, events like San Deigo’s annual Comic Con now warrant media interest and headlining showbiz names usually reserved for major international Film Festivals. Now a certified mainstream occurrence, the comic book film, and its legion of “geek boys” are now a cinematic force to be reckoned with.
At times it appeared as though Hollywood’s creatively bankrupt blockbuster system would dominate the landscape, especially once calculating franchise sequels and opening weekend receipts ruled over old school genuine movie magic but the Comic Book film happily threw on the cape and flew in and saved the day. Thanks goodness that technology well and truly caught up with the director’s (and/or screen writer’s) imaginations, otherwise we could have found ourselves enjoying Spawn repeats.
The 10 Must See Comic Book Films of the Decade
10. V for Vendetta – James McTeigue (2005)
09. Iron Man – Jon Favreau (2008)
08. Watchmen – Zach Snyder (2009)
07. Ghost World – Terry Zwigoff (2001)
06. X2: X-Men United - Bryan Singer (2002)
05. American Splendor – Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (2003)
04. Unbreakable – M. Night Shyamalan (2000)
03. Sin City – Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez with Quentin Tarantino (2005)
02. Road To Perdition - Sam Mendes (2002)
01. The Dark Knight – Christopher Nolan (2008)
3. The Never-ending Rollout of Spoof/Parody Films
This is a joke, right? Nope, audiences’ love affair with this sub genre of comedy continued all decade long, if it didn’t, surely the decision makers would have put a quick stop to it. Appearing to be cheap enough to produce (especially given the return from cinema and DVD sales), the spoof film doesn’t require household name actors, strong writing, good direction or even much class… it foregoes all that to just be, well, somewhat funny, for the most part.
The other rule of thumb, it needs to poke fun at something and this decade, that was easy, real easy. Whether it was your standard Event film, Horror show, Teen flick, Comic Book adaptation or in some cases, gulp, Documentary, one no longer wonders if audiences are seeing enough films to know what’s being targeted, let alone what’s memorable or even lends itself to being victim of parody in the first place. Nope, that’s not up for debate. Proof? Spoof/Parody film roll call: Scary Movie. Scary Movie 2. Scary Movie 3. Scary Movie 4. Date Movie. Dance Flick. Disaster Movie. Epic Movie. Superhero Movie. Not Another Teen Movie. Meet The Spartans. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Happily (N)ever After. Farce Of The Penguins. 2001: A Space Travesty. The Hebrew Hammer. Undercover Brother. Pootie Tang. Kung-Fu Hustle. Tropic Thunder. Shaun Of The Dead. Hot Fuzz. Bruno. Borat. Razzle Dazzle: A Journey Into Dance and Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday The 13th… and the list goes on… and it will continue to go on, as long as the box office receipts keep on keeping on.
4. Decade of the Docu
Take a look at the list of noteworthy docus (listed below) and ask yourself if you remember caring as much about docus as you have this past decade? In fact, the hoop docus act as a microcosm – Year Of The Yao, Gunnin’ For That No.1 Spot, The Heart Of The Game, Kobe: Doin’ Work, Through The Fire, More Than A Game, King of the Streets: The Ed “Booger” Smith Story, The First Basket, Skywalker: The David Thompson Story, On Hallowed Ground: Streetball Champions of Rucker Park, Whatever Happened to Micheal Ray? and :03 from Gold.
Taking a further look at the docus that have affected and shaped our lives, from comments on contemporary and past military warfare to the revolution (or is that re-revolution?) of fast food consumption; from being a “Jackass” with your mates, to the downfalls of corporate greed; from weathering climate change to washed up icons; from musical talents that’ll never grow old to pop culture phenomena that’ll never wear out. The Naughties saw the humble documentary reach further and wider than ever before.
Ask yourself, how many docus from the ‘90s do you remember as apposed to this decade? It’s not surprising then that the Documentary film became prominent in a decade where information was more readily available (thanks internet), technology became cheaper, so production costs were reduced, and thus more people could afford to be self made movie makers… and above all else, as film audiences grew and become more connected (thanks again, internet), so did their thirst for alternate, well crafted cinema. Plus, once Michael Moore’s trumpet was heard, the game was never same.
The documentary remains the best mirror we have for society. It’s effectiveness and importance hasn’t waned in the blockbuster era, in fact, far from it. Thanks to Moore, with honorable mentions to Mr. Climate Change, Al Gore and the Happy Meal munching Morgan Spurlock, one can pin point the reason docus have seen such unprecedented commercial success this decade. In no particular order, these docus left their mark… make sure you watch them all…
Jackass – Jeff Tremaine (2002).
Tyson – James Toback (2008).
Food, Inc. – Robert Kenner (2008).
Cocaine Cowboys – Bill Corben (2006).
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party – Michel Gondry (2005).
Man On Wire – James Marsh (2008).
Shine A Light – Martin Scorsese (2008).
Standard Operating Procedure – Errol Morris (2008).
The Original Kings Of Comedy – Spike Lee (2000).
Mad Hot Ballroom – Marilyn Agrelo (2005).
Inside Deep Throat – Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato (2005).
No Direction Home – Martin Scorsese (2005).
Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story Of Ozploitation! – Mark Hartley (2008).
An Inconvenient Truth – Davis Guggenheim (2006).
The King Of Kong – Seth Gordon (2007).
Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room – Alex Gibney (2005).
The Hunting Of The President – Nickolas Perry & Harry Thomason (2004).
Grizzly Man – Werner Herzog (2005).
Bowling For Columbine – Michael Moore (2002).
Sicko – Michael Moore (2007).
Fahrenheit 9/11 – Michael Moore (2004).
In The Shadow Of The Moon – David Sington (2007).
A Crude Awakening – Basil Gelpke, Ray McCormack & Reto Caduff (2006).
How Arnold Won The West – Alex Cooke (2004).
Murderball – Henry Alex Rubin & Dana Adam Shaprio (2005)
Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster – Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky (2004.)
Rock School – Don Argott (2005).
Capturing The Friedmans – Andrew Jarecki (2004).
The Kid Stays In The Picture – Nanette Burstein & Brett Morgan (2002)
Comedian - Christian Charles (2002).
Love The Beast – Eric Bana (2008).
Just For Kicks – Thibaut de Longeville & Lisa Leone (2005).
Super Size Me – Morgan Spurlock (2004).
Bra Boys - Sunny Abberton & Macario De Souza (2007)
Crazy/Love – Dan Klores & Fisher Stevens (2007).
Helvetica – Gary Hustwit (2007).
The Dixie Chicks: Shut Up And Sing – Barbara Kopple & Cecilia Peck (2006).
Rock The Bells – Denis Hennelly & Csaey Suchan (2006).
Dig! – Ondi Timoner (2004).
Who Killed The Electric Car? – Chris Paine (2006).
Jesus Camp – Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady (2006).
The Aristocrats – Paul Provenza (2005).
March Of The Penguins – Luc Jacquet (2005).
The Heart Of The Game – Ward Serill (2005)
The Devil and Daniel Johnstone – Jeff Feuerzeig (2005).
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War On Journalism – Robert Greenwald (2004).
Rize – David LaChapelle (2005).
The Corporation – Mark Achbar & Jennifer Abbott (2003).
The Fog Of War – Errol Morris (2003).
Salute – Matt Norman (2008).
Tarnation - Jonathan Caouette (2003)
Touching The Void – Kevin MacDonald (2003).
Born Into Brothels – Zana Briski & Ross Kauffman (2004).
To Be And To Have – Nicolas Philibert (2002).
My Flesh And Blood – Jonathan Karsh (2003).
Lost In La Mancha – Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe (2002).
Spellbound - Jeffery Blitz (2002).
Wordplay – Patrick Creadon (2006).
Dogtown and Z Boys – Stacy Peralta (2001).
Riding Giants – Stacy Peralta (2004).
The Filth And The Fury – Julien Temple (2000).
Darling! The Pieter Dirk Uys Story – Julian Shaw (2005).
And the list goes on…
5. The “Slashers”
Actors/Musicians… And Musicians/Actors
Nowadays, if you’re not maximizing your star potential, once you’re a captain of industry, be it writing literature, acting or producing cinema, performing music, or championing your own charity, it’s seen as a waste. While celebrity shelf life isn’t what it used to be the names below have defected from their Cinematic or Musical roots and have taken up the alternate as their extra curricular activity of choice. Beware of the fan hand that slaps you when you’re never satisfied with your reach.
Actors wanting to be musicians and more importantly, Musicians who can act, is nothing new. There is a natural flamboyancy that comes with performance and the best musicians have known this since the birth of contemporary cinema but looking back at this decade, it was never just about iconic musical artists showing up in films as Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles did in The Blues Brothers… and as Vanilla Ice did in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze but rather, it became apparent that Musicians, and their cinematic counterparts, wanted to use their fame to leap frog the natural order of the world… and best believe they wanted to be taken seriously in the process. Nowadays, Actors want to be musicians, and musicians want to be actors. It’s that simple.
Musicians Who Want To Be Actors
Ever since Bing Crosby in The Road to Morocco and Going My Way; and Frank Sinatra’s starring role in the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate, not to mention Elvis (my skills don’t always translate) Presley’s run of silver screen hits, vocalists and musicians alike have tried their hand at acting. Think Bette Midler in Ruthless People, Drowning Mona and Beaches or Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, What’s Up, Doc? and Yentl. Think Tina Turner in Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome or Cher in Moonstruck. Of course there’s Liza Minnelli in Bob Fosse’s Cabaret, but with less contrived musical cinema around these days, what’s a musician to do?
From 1989’s Ghosts… of the Civil Dead, to Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, Nick Cave proved teaming up with the right director is key. Tom Waits echoed this when he co-starred in Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law in ’86 and further proved the exact science when he played a mad scientist in Mystery Men. There’s been Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson as well as the dramatic ambitions of musicians Tom Waits and Courtney Love. Ballad rockers Meatloaf’s roles in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Fight Club are well documented as is Lauren Hill’s role in Sister Act and Sting’s cameo in Guy Richie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels; but for the golden nugget of musicians turned actors catch David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth and Labyrinth, while this decade his left an impression as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige.
On a more contemporary and decade defining note, Justin Timberlake’s bold attempts at acting in both Alpha Dog and Black Snake Moan were admirable but he’s yet to catch Country musician Dwight Yoakam, who backed up his stellar performance in Sling Blade with his ruthless turn in David Fincher’s Panic Room. Interestingly, Jack White appeared in Anthony Mimghella’s Cold Mountain while Mandy Moore Saved! Brian Dannelly’s catholic school comedy. There was Norah Jones’ silver screen debut in Kar Wai Wong’s My Blueberry Nights, Beyonce Knowles’ sexy supporting role as Foxxy Cleopatra in Austin Powers In Goldmember and Kid Rock’s Dennie Gordon in Joe Dirt but for the real head turner, you have to cast the eye of Sauron onto the decades biggest musical money spinner, Hip Hop.
Back in ‘04, Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee & Cigarettes allowed musical talents Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, brother and sister act Jack and Meg White, as well as cousins RZA and GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, the opportunity to live out their cinematic fantasies. Each performance came with it’s own cringe factor, it’s own humor and most importantly of all, it’s own level of cool. While Wu-Tang Clan creator RZA went on to land supporting roles in Derailed, American Gangster and Funny People he appeared to approached his other interest with surprising good timing and restraint but it’s fellow Brooklyn emcee, BlackStar co-founder Mos Def, who wins the award for best hip hop artist turn actor.
His performances in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled; along side veteran Billy Bob Thorton in Monster’s Ball; with Mr. Seven Degrees, Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman; as the lead in tele-movie Something The Lord Made; opposite funny man Jack Black in Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind; and in the big screen adaptation of The Hitchhickers Guide To The Galaxy, Def showed remarkable poise from the jump, proving that musicians do have the acting chops to hang with the best in Hollywood.
Instrumental (no pun intended) in this wave of Hip Hop artists dipping their mitts into the acting jar were Snoop Dogg who aptly showed up in Starsky and Hutch and Training Day; Queen Latifah who helped the musical Chicago earn multiple awards; Xzibit, who pimped his film role in Derailed; Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs who was surprisingly good in Monster’s Ball and Made; as was Method Man in Garden State and Soul Plane; Redman in How High and Seed Of Chucky; and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges who found himself in hits Crash and Hustle And Flow.
Then there was Earl “DMX” Simmons in Exit Wounds and Cradle 2 To The Grave; JA Rule in The Fast And The Furious, Half Past Dead and the remake of Assault on Precinct 13; LL Cool J in Rollerball and S.W.A.T; Eve in Barbershop, xXx and Whip It; Chicago native Common in Terminator Salvation and Wanted; Percy “Master P” Miller in Hollywood Homicide; Sticky Fingaz in Flight Of The Phoenix, Kurupt in Half Past Dead and The Wash; Busta Rhymes in Finding Forrester, Narc and Halloween: Resurrection and Rah Digga in Thir13en Ghosts.
Proof of their crossover appeal, pop sensations the Black Eyed Peas saw three members show up on the silver screen with front man Will.I.Am appearing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, while counterparts Taboo (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li) and Stacy Ferguson (Nine, Poseidon and Grindhouse’s Planet Terror) both landed film roles, respectively.
Funky Bunch front man Mark Wahlberg didn’t deliver another Dirk Diggler, instead he insisted on making us suffer through Max Payne, Four Brothers, The Happening and Planet Of The Apes, among others. While there was We Own The Night, and against better judgment, a Best Supporting Actor nod for his role in The Departed, Marky Mark now has to be seen as damaged goods after a strong debut in the ‘90s. Wahlberg’s Four Brothers co star, Andre Benjamin starred along side Will Ferrell in Semi-Pro and teamed up with OutKast partner in rhyme, Big Boi, for a headlining role in Idlewild to offer a counterpoint that Hip Hop stars do belong on the big screen.
Former Boyz N The Hood and Friday star Ice Cube gave us seriously mediocre family features and shame on you Cube, while the Fresh Prince, Will Smith gave us a Bad Boys sequel, Hancock, Seven Pounds, The Pursuit of Happiness, Ali, and couple of sci-fi outings in an attempt to win his first Oscar.
Sadly, while everyone’s still following in Ice-T’s Detective Scotty Appleton footsteps in Mario Van Peebles’ directorial debut New Jack City, it appeared that musicians aren’t happy earning their stripes, they’d rather go all in, believing it’s either spotlight or bust.
Oscar nominated directors Curtis Hanson and Jim Sheridan were hired for Marshall “Eminem” Mathers’ 8 Mile and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, respectively, in hope of ensuring the portrayals of these semi-autobiographical tales were cinematically credible. What’s missing however from these cinematic characterizations is often the same charisma that’s omnipresent in their music.
Lastly, both Mariah Carey’s Glitter and Britney Spears’ Crossroads adhere to this rule, offering only broad brushstrokes, rather than the details of their own (and more interesting) life stories. Fittingly, these films allow the respective musicians to use the cinematic medium as either reinforcement or subversion of their pop image.
Actors Who Want To Be Musicians
There’s been Peter Gallagher, Steven Segal, Minnie Driver, Bruce Willis and Robert Downey Jr. all lending their other talents to the world. Even Eddie Murphy teamed up with Rick James and Kevin Johnston in 1985 for his musical debut How Could It Be. While it’s one thing for Clint Eastwood to compose and score his own films, which did for the surprise hit Gran Torino, it’s another thing entirely to sing the theme song for his or her own film (cue G.Paltrow in Duets).
Remember seeing Joaquin Phoenix abandon his acting post in hope of being a Hip Hop artist, yep, that actually happened and although no one else is taking him as seriously as he’s taking himself, it hasn’t prevented him from trying. While he may be the train wreck of the decade, others aren’t cut from his miserable and confusing cloth.
The biggest Hollywood star to make the jump to pop music would have to be Jenny-from-the-block. Jennifer Lopez capitalized on her early decade fame and remained a billboard chart topper for years. Her relationship with Sean “Puffy Daddy” Combs aka P-Diddy, only helped her reach for the queen of pop music status she so desperately wants. Russell Crowe and his band, 30 Odd Foot Of Grunt did their part to uphold the cliché about actors and their ventures into music while Scarlett Johansson gave us her debut album, Anywhere I Lay My Head and not surprising, her musical musing were much better than that of fellow female breast actor Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Indie “it” girl, Zooey Deschanel teamed with M. Ward to form the duo She and Him. Their debut, titled Volume One, features classic pop tunes that truly shines with thoughtful lyrics. Treated (or is that cursed?) with two musical releases by Jamie Foxx this decade, it seems it wasn’t enough for the actor to rest on his critically acclaimed laurels, following his star making role as Ray Charles in Taylor Hackford’s Ray. What began with a guest spot on Kanye West’s popular single Golddigger soon blew out of proportion as the fantastic Mr. Foxx gave us Unpredictable in ’05 and Intuition ’08, whether we asked for it or not.
Others of note include Donnie Darko star Jena Malone and her band, Her Bloodstains, who gave us The Social Club No.1 late this decade. Kevin, and his bother, Michael Bacon formed the aptly titled duo, The Bacon Brothers. Their fourth album, White Knuckles, released in 2005 is a little bit of Country, Rock, Folk and Soul. Natural Born Killers star, Juliette Lewis and her garage band, Juliette And The Licks, proves that when done right, actors can deliver solid music. The best of the bunch however is satirical band Tenacious D, comprising of comedian Jack Black and his offsider Kyle Gass, their album, The Pick Of Destiny, is classic mock rock and well worth checking out. Contrastingly, Emo star Jared Leto has been pretending to be a musician since 2002 when the actor, best know for his roles in Girl, Interrupted and Requiem For A Dream started playing lead guitarist and vocalizing for 30 Seconds to Mars. His music is much like his acting, best to avoid this one. Finally, Mrs. Will Smith, Jada Pinkett established her own hard rock band in ‘03 under the name Wicked Wisdom where she’s the lead vocalist on their self titled debut.
Musician’s and Casting Agents obviously see a decided advantage for established entertainers over aspiring and amateur actors, why else would Studio’s hire them. Sure one’s preternatural presence, and ultimately their ego, drive them towards the alternative but as we so often see, ones “other” persona is often beyond their reach, hence why it wasn’t their elected career in the first place. Advice, take baby steps or follow the acting road less traveled. In other words, ask yourself, what would Henry Rollins do?
The 10 Best Musician Performances (This Decade)
10. Norah Jones in My Blueberry Nights – Kar Wai Wong (2007)
09. RZA in Derailed – Mikael Hafstrom (2005)
08. Andre Benjamin in Semi-Pro – Kent Alterman (2007)
07. Beyonce Knowles in Austin Powers In Goldmember – Jay Roach (2002)
06. Sean Combs in Monster’s Ball – Marc Forster (2001)
05. David Bowie in The Prestige – Christopher Nolan (2006)
04. Eminem in 8 Mile – Curtis Hanson (2003)
03. Chris “Ludacris” Bridges in Crash – Paul Haggis (2006)
02. Dwight Yaokim on Panic Room – David Fincher (2002)
01. Mos Def in Be Kind Rewind – Michel Gondry (2007)
Other Noteworthy Trends
The Undisputed King Of Cinema Comedy: Judd Apatow. His stable reformed big screen comedy success with hits The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Step Brothers, Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Funny People. Apatow helped Will Ferrell become the comedian of the decade (along with Jon Favreau’s Elf and Todd Phillips’ Old School) and the New King Of Cinematic Comedy also helped create (and fuel) interest in funny thoroughbreds Steve Carell, Seth Rogan, Jason Segal, Jay Baruchel, Martin Starr, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera while giving a face lift to John C. Reilly and Paul Rudd.
Speaking of TV On The Big Screen, we were either cursed or privileged (depending on your individual taste) to see Get Smart, Starsky & Hutch, The Simpsons, Sex And The City, Charlies Angels, The Duke Of Hazard, Bewitched and others receive their respective big screen makeovers. We also saw a resurgence in Zombie films and Vampire movies. Pornographic Horror also became the norm as Eli Roth’s Hostel and James Wan’s Saw franchise took the idea of gross out gore to new unsettling heights. The decade also gave birth to regrettable trends with “prequels”, “re-imaginings”, “reboots” and “Urban Comedy’s” (which is corporate speak for African American marketed movies) all packaged in highly forgettable forms.
There were also a large collection of franchise “Event” films: the fore mentioned Saw series as well Ocean’s Eleven; the Jason Bourne Trilogy (Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum); three Pirates Of The Caribbean films, the two final Star Wars prequels; six Harry Potter movies; a uneven series of James Bond adventures; The Matrix Reloaded and Crapolutions, as well as box office giants Transformers and Twilight. The decades biggest event however belonged to The Lord Of The Rings saga which simply went bananas changing how and when films are shot, marketed, released on DVD and enjoyed by all.
Brad Graham’s a hoop culture aficionado attempting to flee the once proud Australian basketball scene. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.