Thursday, December 17, 2009

Top 10 Fantasy Movies of the Decade

Rounding out the genre troika is my list of the Top 10 Fantasy Movies of the Decade. You'll note there are quite a few Superhero movies on this list. Most genre-specific lists include Superheroes in Sci-Fi, but I think they usually include more fantasy elements than science; near-perfect men and women who do extraordinary things for those less perfect than themselves. And yes, Superman may well be from outer space, but Thor is right out of Norse mythology.

"Fantasy" as a label has been used as a catch-all for Horror and Sci-Fi, but when you think about it, isn't all fiction by definition Fantasy?

For the purposes of this post, Fantasy is defined as having fantastical elements, including, but not limited to, mythological creatures, beings and entities or those who through fantastical circumstances find themselves imbued with fantastical properties and/or abilities. So, without further ado, my picks for The Top 10 Fantasy Movies of the Decade:

10. MirrorMask

Neil Gaiman's traditional 'quest' fantasy about a teenage girl who must find a fabled Mirror Mask to end a conflict and heal her mother, has been described by some as The Wizard of Oz Goes to Cirque du Soleil. Canadian illustrator Dave McKean directs for Jim Henson Productions, creating a rich and gorgeous world where anything can and does happen. Simply magical.

9. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Ang Lee's Chinese fairy tale about the search for a stolen sword and the abduction of a young noblewoman introduced Western audiences to wire-work and cemented Lee as one of the best filmmakers in either hemisphere. Luscious, exciting and enigmatic, it features a terrific performances from Chow Yun Fat and the amazing Michelle Yeoh, who says more with here eyes than pages of dialog could ever convey. Add a gorgeous score from Tan Dun and you have a unique film experience that's been copied, but never quite replicated.

8. The Prestige

The first of two Christopher Nolan films on this list, The Prestige is a story about two rival magician's and the lengths which one will go to take revenge on the other for a perceived wrong, and fine line between science and magic. Starring Hugh Jackman; Christian Bale, Michael Caine; Scarlett Johansson; Andy Serkis and David Bowie, The Prestige is a movie that requires more than one viewing to understand all of its complexities. A truly amazing film.

7. Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. completes his return from Hollywood hell in Jon Favreau's brilliant adaptation of the Marvel comic book about weapons manufacturer Tony Stark who, after being kidnapped and forced to build a weapon for the enemy, creates a flying suit that he uses to enforce peace. A fun, thrilling and dazzling Superhero movie unlike most in the genre, Iron Man is also one of the genre's best. Downey is joined by Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and an unrecognizably hot Peter (A Christmas Story) Billingsly in this exciting first entry in what is sure to become a 3 picture franchise.

6. Watchmen

Alan Moore's supposedly unfilmable graphic novel was brought to the screen this year by 300 director Zach Snyder, and while the end product was far from perfect, it was sure worth the wait. Billy Crudup, Mathhew Goode, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jackie Earle Haley (in a tour de force performance) head up the cast in this story about disillusioned superheroes who must re-team to stop the world from being destroyed. Moore may have disavowed teh Hollywood machine, but his story makes for one hell of a good movie.

5. Spider-Man 2

The first sequel on my list, Sam Raimi's follow-up to Spider-Man is one of the best Superhero movies ever made. Tobey Maguire; Kirsten Dunst; James Franco; Alfred Molina; Dylan Baker and the amazing Rosemary Harris head up an exciting and intelligent movie about the toll being a Superhero takes on the human underneath the mask.

4. The Incredibles

Pixar has yet to fail us, and Brad Bird's hilarious tale about Superheroes forced into retirement takes on not only the comics' staple, but James Bond, teh fashion industry and family dynamics in one of Pixar's best entries. Featuring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee and Elizabeth Pena, The Incredibles is a hilarious, exciting and touching movie worth seeing again and again.

3. Pan's Labyrinth

A movie that I feel is the first true Cinematic Masterpiece of the 21st Century, Guillermo del Toro's tale of a young girl living under the thumb of a sadistic step-father who is also a General in Franco's regime of terror, Pan's Labyrinth is not a sweet fairy tale for children, but rather a tale of beauty and truth triumphing over evil. And whether you choose to believe to believe that Ofelia is truly a princess from another world or a young girl who escapes into fantasy to escape the pain of the real world, there is no denying the power of del Toro's vision. A stunning acheivement.

2. The Dark Knight

How many times can Nolan's sequel to Batman Begins be praised? Not enough, for my money. The late Heath Ledger's astounding performance as The Joker is enough to make The Dark Knight the best Superhero movie ever made, but it's only part of the whole that is the amazingly dark and gritty film that The Dark Knight is. Christian Bale (despite teh ridiculous raspy voice) turns in another powerhouse performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Add Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal to the mix and you have a Batman movie even Tim Burton must be jealous of.

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

How can one separate Peter Jackson's three films? You may as well try to separate Tolkien's novels. Ambitious, extraordinary, luscious and iconic can only begin to describe these three epic films. I'll simply let the trailers speak for themselves:

Any arguments for the #1 spot? I thought not.

Honorable Mentions: Finding Nemo; King Kong; Hellboy 2; The Illusionist; Peter Pan; Shrek; Spirited Away; Tideland; Howl's Moving Castle.

On side note, Uncle P may be absent for a few nights over the next couple of weeks. I recently had a dream which has inspired a new screenplay, which demands to be written and I'll be spending some time working on that. I'll stop by now and then and will be posting my Top 10 of 2009 before the end of January, but if I don't get to say so before, I wish you all avery Happy, Safe and Healthy Holiday Season.

More, eventually.

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