E Pluribus Unum

  • Monday, August 16, 2010
  • Payton Bartee
  • The World Trade Center/mosque debate is a pretty incredible national discussion right now. I'm going to try and save my own personal comments to the end, and present some documented facts at the outset. No matter the situation, it is important to be educated about an issue of which you're passionately opinionated. Hopefully most of us have done our research on this mosque, but some choose to simply spread hate. I will say flat out that I sympathize with the families and people affected by 9/11. It's easy to diagnose the ethical problems people have with the proposed mosque--some people argue that it is offensive, a proverbial slap in the face to victims of 9/11. Even if that isn’t the Islamic group’s intention here, I completely understand this reaction.

    The fact of the matter in this 'ethical argument,' however, is that ethics ultimately have no bearing on law. The First Amendment is about as transparent in this arena as it can get: if New York City allows houses of worship in the area, it cannot legally stop the mosque from being built without violating the most sacred right U.S. citizens enjoy daily.

    Some facts (with occasional commentary thrown in after)
    • First and foremost, the Cordoba House will be built on the site of the old and unoccupied Burlington Coat Factory. It is not being built on the WTC site. No one perished on this ground, as it is two blocks from the WTC (and not even visible from Ground Zero)
    • Somebody looked up an aerial photo of the Cordoba House on Google Maps, or check it out yourself: the address is 45 Park Place, but the buildings on Vesey and Barclay Street are kind of in the way.
    • Here's a picture of the final architectural design; looks like an ordinary, 12-story building to me

    So, in summary: it's not as close to WTC as media says, it doesn't resemble a mosque in structure, and the building that is being demolished to make room for this giant "mosque" housed…a mosque. This isn’t a new establishment, just a much larger version of what was already there.

    • Within three blocks walking distance of Ground Zero, the NY Daily News counted 17 pizza shops, 18 bank branches, 11 bars, 10 shoe stores and 17 separate "female" salons...not to mention a few adults stores and strip clubs

    I know it's New York, and there's probably establishments of that variety on every block in lower Manhattan. But it kind of takes away from the "sanctity" of the surrounding area, no? Ground Zero is flooded by a sea of filth, yet no strong Christian opposition to any of those existing so close to the site.

    Personally I think this is the biggest and most important point of this entire story. Muslims have purchased land to build a building in which Muslims will pray and have services, amongst many other activities open to all. The people who frequent that mosque will not be forcing anyone else to worship there or to listen to their prayers. This is exactly what the First Amendment is meant to protect. People walk by all sorts of things on their way to and from Ground Zero, including profane and offensive graffiti. Having to walk by a beautiful mosque should be no more offensive than having to walk by a beautiful Catholic chapel.

    History gives us something else to chew on; Timothy McVeigh, a Christian, blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing many children as well as adults. The Episcopal Cathedral right across the street was heavily damaged in the blast. Yet not one person objected to its being rebuilt near that Memorial because a Christian had committed that terrorist act.

    • The founder, Imam Rauf, calls the project a community center for all faiths. In addition to housing a mosque, the building will include fitness facilities (swimming pool, gym, basketball court), a 500-seat auditorium (Tribeca!), a restaurant and a cooking school, exhibition space, a library, art studios, prayer space (Muslim AND non-denominational), childcare facilities, and a 9/11 memorial
    • Rauf worked with GWBush on middle-eastern peace during his two terms
    • To everyone saying 'Ask the families!'--NY mayor is doing that

    Colleen Kelly of the Bronx lost her brother on 9/11. Her comments were poignant: "The mosque is in many ways a fitting tribute. This is the voice of Islam that I believe needs a wider audience. This is what moderate Islam is all about."

    Essentially, public opinion on this issue is divided into thirds. About a third of the country thinks that not only do the developers have a right to build the mosque, but that it's a perfectly appropriate thing to do. Another third think that while the development is in poor taste, the developers nevertheless have a right to build it. And the final third think that not only is the development inappropriate, but the developers have no right to build it -- perhaps they think that the government should intervene to stop it in some fashion.

    Obama's remarks, while asserting that "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country," and that the "principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are," simply reflected the view that the developers had a First Amendment right to proceed with the project -- a view that at least 60 percent of Americans share. True, Obama could have hedged a little bit more, by saying something along the lines of "they have every right to build it, but I hope they will consider another location". On the other hand, it is not as though he said "this is a wonderful thing, and I'm going to make sure to take Sasha and Malia there once it's built." Instead, he acknowledged the sensitivity over the Ground Zero site, calling it "hallowed ground", but couched the controversy in terms of the First Amendment.

    The President was asked again on Saturday for his thoughts on the issue: "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding."

    Obama said that "my intention was simply to let people know what I thought. Which was that in this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion."


    I think a key question underlying the Ground Zero mosque debate is whether Americans are under the impression we are at war with Islam. Because that perception determines our direct feelings for the religion, as well as if we avoid or provoke a clash in the discrepancy.

    Outlawing any Muslim presence from the neighborhood because of the actions of 19 terrorists succumbs this nation to the same flawed ideology of the terrorist who label all Americans as evil. The numbers are revealing; at least 23 Muslims were included among the victims of the 9/11 terrorists. Equating Islam as a whole to the terrorist acts of 19 individuals perpetuates the ignorance Americans have of this world religion. Maybe the presence of a mosque would provide people an opportunity to meet true Muslims, whose name (if you haven't forgotten) at its root word is "peace." By issuing a building permit to Americans who want to build a community center, we uphold the freedoms that define our nation and prove the ideologies of terrorists to be a lie.

    If Islam is the enemy, then further action has to be taken by the government, and we should not stop at Cordoba. To follow suit, we would need to outlaw new mosques from Boston to San Francisco. Or we could get extremely dicey and reenact our treatment of Japanese-American Buddhists in WW2, putting them in camps and such. But if the enemy is terrorism, then we should realize that we only incite and inspire that enemy when we act as if we are at war with the religion of Islam.

    The Constitution

    Muslims clearly and unquestionably are entitled to the protections of religious freedom the Constitution offers. From this truth, any action to preclude disrupt plans to build the center would be "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion by Muslims. Even if we accept the judgment that some interpretations of Islamic belief were among the motivating factors behind the 9/11 attacks, we cannot overlook the Constitutional freedom that is guaranteed to Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, and others.

    If Americans still believe that the Constitution truly matters, we should celebrate a desire to build a mosque in New York City. Otherwise, we will have not only abandoned our Constitution, we will have adopted the ideology of those in Iran who would not want a church or synagogue to be built in Tehran.

    My thoughts

    As a Christian, it would be incredible to experience an America in which religious faith can be expressed comfortably and confidently. Yes, the freedoms provided by the Constitution are there in plain writing, but we still have strings attached to our American culture. For example, neighborhood families being comfortable welcoming Muslims to the backyard BBQ in a post-9/11 world (without being suspicious just because of some fanatics) is a tall order, but more my idea of the American dream than Apple or Abercrombie could ever provide. Are our ideals as Americans, Christians, and freedom lovers really so fragile that they can’t deal with a public exercise of expression? Phil Collins might be the only one to agree with me, but the people fighting the mosque are showing their true colors in not showing confidence in their ideals.

    So what is everyone scared of? Literally speaking, a mosque downtown gives people access to Islamic teachings, and if they are the violent religion their detractors claim, then wouldn’t we want them out in broad daylight for the public to see? And if those same detractors turn out to be wrong, then no harm, no foul. Perhaps letting them build the center would symbolize something different to people in the U.S., such as what Bloomberg suggested when he said it would represent tolerance. To me, it would be an incredible symbol of American confidence in our values. It would show that as a nation, we prize these beliefs even when it pains us to do so.

    Some will argue why Groud Zero, and not somewhere else? If the city allows religious congregations in the area, they can’t keep out a mosque, simple as that. Motivations of the builders or anyone never really factor in, because adversely the government has no right to decide just because of a bad feeling. Also, the minute we empower government to shut down mosques, we empower it to shut down other things...like churches.

    Coming to a close, I think many people in this country imagine that this "mosque" (not a mosque) will tower over the NYC skyline like Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence. Anything over a dozen stories would tower over everything else in most towns, and even small cities in the US. But really, it’s not the height of said “mosque” that offends people, it’s the proximity. It feels to some like dancing on the graves of those whose lives were lost at the hands of terrorists who used Islam to justify their unspeakable deeds. And maybe that’s what people are projecting onto this Islamic center. It is near a location that is considered ‘hallowed ground’ in that it is a clear physical symbol of an attack on our nation: our first real gaping wound, and a fresh one at that. But the current the location also makes it the best place to redress the horror. It has the potential to be a place of permanent penance and an olive branch of peace. Remember, the WTC was specifically chosen because it functioned as a symbol in a pluralistic society. That fact is now lost on those who now wish to exclude a group related to the attackers only because of some loose affiliations of faith. Segregation of even one such group invalidates that which you claim to be--one nation made up of many geographical parts, varying nationalities, and faiths.

    This is un-American to all but those who really don’t understand what American virtues. America isn’t about being a leader in war, space, culture, or technology. It really is best summed up as, “E Pluribus Unum.” THAT is how we are unique. Kudos to the media for grossly ballooning this topic into a nationwide debate. While I agree this is an ethical controversy, it's more of a Constitutional/American issue. It doesn't help that for much of the conservatives out there, critical thought is easily replaced by fear when Islam is thrown in. Taken for what it truly is, the Cordoba House should be built without controversy and without causing pain. It will provide a multicultural, interfaith space to discuss peace and understanding, and assets to the community...wherever it ends up being built.

    Top 10 Most Anticipated of 2010

  • Tuesday, February 9, 2010
  • Payton Bartee
  • Here's a quickie...needless to say, it should be a pretty awesome summer.

    Top 10 most anticipated flicks of 2010!
    (Subject to change)

    1. Shutter Island -- 2/19/10 (Martin Scorsese)
    2. Inception -- 7/16/10 (Christopher Nolan)
    3. Iron Man 2 -- 5/7/10 (Jon Favreau)
    4. Robin Hood -- 5/14/10 (Ridley Scott)
    5. Predators -- 7/7/10 (Nimrod Antal)
    6. Toy Story 3 -- 6/18/10 (Lee Unkrich)
    7. The A-Team -- 6/11/10 -- (Joe Carnahan)
    8. The Expendables -- 8/13/10 (Sylvester Stallone)
    9. Alice in Wonderland -- 3/5/10 (Tim Burton)
    10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Pt. 1 -- 11/19/10 (David Yates)

    -The Social Network (aka the Facebook movie from David Fincher)
    -Jonah Hex
    -A Nightmare on Elm Street
    -Clash of the Titans

    PS -- the "Arrested Development" movie will only be filming in 2010, otherwise it would've made the #1 spot here. Just an FYI!

    Top 10 of 2009: Part 2

  • Wednesday, February 3, 2010
  • Payton Bartee
  • And we're finally here. I can honestly say that I love this Top 5, and that's how it should be, really. For all movies you see in a year, your Top 5 should be the ones that have stuck with you, the ones you could name off to a friend instantly. Looking at my Top 5, I have to say that 2009 was a strong year. But onto the list...

    South African Neill Blomkamp (a Peter Jackson disciple) combined his love of Hollywood fare with an outsider perspective to remind us that if executed well, familiar stories can still be fresh. Blurring drama and documentary, Blomkamp spins the alien invasion movie and flips it all on its head. What if they came, and--instead of reacting with nuclear weapons or Will Smith--we put them into a refugee camp? Leading up to the summer, the hype machine started rolling for this Peter Jackson-produced alien movie. I went into this film having heard all the praise, but left the theater extremely pleased. Not only did District 9 live up to any hype, it featured a sharp social commentary about South Africa's segregating past, and effectively combined compelling characters with just enough Hollywood action to make for a thrilling film. Equally commendable is the casting of relative unknown Sharlto Copley in the lead. Plus, having an alien landing that is neither hostile nor a diplomatic mission is really creative, as is having the humans be indecisive over what exactly to do in that situation. Kudos all around to Blomkamp and crew.

    You might recognize director Kathryn Bigelow from a little early-90s action movie by the name of Point Break. Several years later, she's re-claiming her territory as a legitimate action director, but it's clear she's also a more mature filmmaker. Bigelow made The Hurt Locker, a film set in the current war in Iraq, for just $11 million. And rather than take political shots or make judgments about whether our country belongs there, this "war movie" zooms in and focuses on the people--the soldiers. In this case, it’s a core group of three members of a bomb squad. These men live every day in a land where anything with a wire could potentially kill them. The Hurt Locker shows the effects of such a lifestyle and the types of people who find themselves in the midst of it. It really isn't a film about big action moments, but nearly every second of it is intense, thanks in large part to the great performances present. Playing on a powerful script, the story here is both intimate in its scope and broad in its thesis (war will never truly end, war is the ultimate drug, etc). And with Jeremy Renner’s star-making performance, The Hurt Locker provides audiences with a visceral, emotional journey into the mind of a soldier.

    I say it every year, but seeing as how they've been firmly entrenched on my annual lists for a while now, I might as well reserve a spot in my Top 5 for PIXAR. The Disney studio has constantly found new and fascinating stories to tell, while resonating emotionally in ways that even live-action features have trouble doing. Not to mention, they've improved their visuals every step of the way. The first thing one notices about their latest offering, Up, is that it gives the viewer a geriatric protagonist worth following, something that's rare to the genre and film culture in general. But there's also the plucky sidekick who is almost too annoying to care about, and Dug, the loyal dog that makes even cat people consider picking up a canine pet. The adventure is vibrant enough to make the visuals a centerpiece, but the action is bombastic enough to keep the attention of children. But where Up really shines is in the first 15 minutes--perhaps the most touching I’ve seen in an animated film--so heartbreaking, so well told. It’s become cliche to say it, but these guys are the best storytellers working today. Adventure truly is out there, and a decade after they started, PIXAR shows so signs of slowing down or waning in quality.

    One of the funniest, most engaging and heartwarming movies of the year, (500) Days of Summer tells the familiar story of a young man who has fallen in love with a woman. The two co-workers begin a relationship, but there’s only one problem: she isn’t in love with him. As we are assured from the start, this isn't a love story, but rather a look at the birth, life, and death of a relationship. The film masterfully blends drama, comedy and even a musical number together into a seamless, sincere and realistic portrayal of the modern relationship. Director Marc Webb may be getting all the buzz as Sony’s new choice to helm the next Spider-Man franchise, but he has this little gem of a film to thank for it. Throughout the course of the movie, Webb and his writing team never let the plot stray into predictable Hollywood territory. Rarely do audiences get treated to such an interpersonal and understanding ‘romance’ (especially revolving young people) without a hint of the mundane or multiple cliches bogging it down. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is certainly one of the most talented young actors out there, and his charm and relatability serve him well opposite a fetching Zooey Deschanel, who compliments him every step of the way. I hate lumping this film into the 'romantic comedy' genre, because the creativity, non-linear storytelling, and sharp dialogue/humor present make it more than that...better than that. This is an exploration of perception, hindsight and foresight, of people. But most of all, it's an exploration of modern love presented in an uncommonly engaging and creative way.

    Going into December, the #1 spot of my Top 10 list was firmly squared away thanks to (500) Days of Summer. But then I saw Avatar, a film that I truthfully wasn't very sold on. The 3D technology was questionable, James Cameron had certainly been away from the game awhile, and the heavy reliance on performance capture usage in the past had always generated a creepy robotic effect (Polar Express, anyone?) rather than something entertaining. But Avatar made me a believer in all of the aforementioned items. In the midst of astronomical budgets, incredible pressure to meet expectations, and over four years of development, Cameron's Avatar delivered on every promise.

    Avatar is unlike any other film ever made and provides a glimpse into the potential of film to literally immerse the viewer in the story. Is it an action movie or a drama? Is it more video game or sci-fi epic? At the end of the day, most people won't know/care if Cameron invented a new camera to shoot this film, or that he broke new ground in motion-capture to fully emote his actors digitally on-screen. All that will matter to the viewing audience is this: are the characters interesting? Is this story gripping? Thankfully, Cameron has always been a masterful storyteller, and he blends all these elements in with his new technology in beautiful harmony. I've heard a lot of people criticize the film for having an unoriginal storyline, but there's really nothing new under the sun in the realm of Hollywood plot lines. Rather than nitpick plot origins, I prefer to look at the content, execution, and the ability of movies to take me to another world for a little bit. Steven Spielberg, one of the most respected filmmakers ever, thinks Cameron succeeded, and I have to agree: "The last time I came out of a movie feeling that way was the first time I saw Star Wars."

    The spiritual metaphors of Avatar are also truly dazzling. Aren’t all of us as humans truly avatars? Spiritual beings temporarily inhabiting human bodies? It's safe to say that the door leading to the future of movies has been opened with Avatar, and more filmmakers will use this technology to further immerse the viewer in such a powerful way. But here in 2009, Avatar breaks new ground in delivering a fully immersive, emotional story...and completely reinvents the movie-going experience.

    My Top 10 Favorite Moments:
    • Up, the First 15 Minutes
    • (500) Days of Summer, You Make My Dreams
    • Inglorious Basterds, the first 15 minutes & the bar scene
    • Drag Me to Hell, the parking lot scene
    • District 9, in the prawn suit
    • The Road, the cannibal house
    • (500) Days of Summer, expectations vs. reality
    • Zombieland, the cameo
    • Taken, all the action scenes
    • Watchmen, the opening credits

    Top 10 of 2009: Part 1

  • Friday, January 29, 2010
  • Payton Bartee
  • 'Puzzling' is the word that most often comes to mind when I think about the 2009 movie landscape. But here we are, my Top 10 of 2009--and it's out a little earlier than last year! Progress, not perfection. If you know me, you know I’m addicted to movies…if you really know me, you know I’m addicted to movies a little too much. Well here are my favorites, and keep that word in mind; uou're free to disagree with any or all of them. Hope you enjoy!

    Honorable Mentions:
    -Up in the Air
    -Public Enemies

    Almost a forgotten genre, documentaries possess the ability to impact and inspire in unique ways due to their subject matters. Two have made my Top 10 this year, and I would strongly encourage both to be seen immediately. First off, following in the footsteps of Errol Morris's fantastic 2004 documentary The Fog of War is Chris Smith's Collapse. Described in one review as "an intellectual horror movie," we're guided through this grim tale by author, editor, and ex-cop Michael Ruppert. Told through his own words via an extended monologue, this riveting story has a certain brooding edge to it, and the subject matter definitely pierces the viewer. Ruppert presents an almost apocalyptic vision of a world spinning violently into chaos, yet his ever-present sense of certainty makes him hard to dismiss. Collapse is ultimately a guy in a room telling us what's on his mind; but by the time the credits roll, the future of our way of life will undoubtedly be on yours, too.

    Having watched it just this week, The Cove is easily the most recent film to crack my list. All you really need to know about this documentary to be intrigued is that it features dolphins. They're like dogs--who doesn't love these guys? Much like Jules Winnfield said in Pulp Fiction, "Dog's got personality...," and the actions of dolphins seem very similar to that of a dog to me. You may have heard rumors of what foreign fish companies do to hit their quota, but I've never heard of anything like what goes on in Louie Psihoyos' shocking and moving documentary. The film sets out to expose the annual killing of about 23,00 dolphins in a National Park located in Taiji, Japan. Typical of any documentary that tries to pull the cover off of something this big, the execution isn't easy. The ragtag, quasi-Ocean's 11 band of activists infiltrate this forbidden location and set up equipment around the area. For being a documentary, the movie almost feels like a good espionage film, providing an aggressive counter-punch to the emotional resonance of what's happening in Taiji. Eventually, through the use of hidden cameras and microphones, they capture these horrific acts, as well as the dirty tactics used by certain departments of the Japanese government; all in the name of keeping what is happening to these dolphins (and the surrounding community) a secret.

    It seems like zombies are everywhere nowadays--from popular video games, to modern cinema, to comics, to our literary classics with titles like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The trend is at an absolute peak, which usually means people should be getting absolutely sick of them by now. However, with movies as funny and downright fun as Zombieland, it’s kind of hard to do anything but want more. Zombieland takes one page from Shaun of the Dead in its humor, and another from the The Zombie Survival Guide in its calculated approach to handling the undead. The awkward Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson’s take on a hillbilly gunslinger make for an entertaining duo, and it features the absolute best cameo of any film this year (and instead of sacrificing one for the other, it is both hilarious and gruesome at the same time). Hands down, just a fun flick.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Road is a bleak, post-apocalypse affair with silent emotion, gruesome scenes and an uncommon form of storytelling. This is a simple story of an long, trying journey between a father and his son. But you won't find any action scenes here; even the thrilling moments are few and far between. This is simply a dark vision of a dreadful future, but not without hope. Cormac McCarthy’s novel is an extremely difficult one to adapt, but director John Hillcoat proves up to the task. This is a hard movie to stomach, mainly because it doesn't play to the audience like a typical film does. In this world McCarthy has created, you don't know what's coming next, you don't have an overriding sense that everything will be alright; and that's truly troubling to witness, much less experience. Viggo Mortensen is fantastic here, and should get recognized come Oscar time. Mortensen makes the scenes between the father and son are simply gut-wrenching. The Road is the kind of movie that will disturb viewers to their very core, but that says a lot about what it achieves.

    I definitely did not foresee including multiple science-fiction films in my list, but perhaps that speaks to how effective and enjoyable the genre can be in the right hands. Starting off the sci-fi streak is Moon, a film I enjoyed quite a bit when I first saw it, but truly love now that I've let it marinate. Writer/director Duncan Jones' (son of David Bowie) first film is somewhat of a throwback movie, drawing comparisons to 2001 rather than Armageddon. The story takes place in the near future and centers around an astronaut on the last leg of a 3-year contract as a moon rock harvester. Playing a man who is desperately trying to fight off the insanity of isolation, Sam Rockwell gives (what in a just world would be) an Oscar-winning performance, and Moon’s focus on the psychological aspects of seclusion make it very original. Moon also boasts a unique atmosphere, but above all else, it’s just refreshing. My favorite thing about Moon is how opposite it is from any current Hollywood trend. It was made on a meager budget, there's nothing flashy, it's plot-driven, authentic but minimal. For a simplistic, low-budget sci-fi flick, it also raises a lot of questions about existence, humanity, morality, the nature of man, and so forth. Moon is one of the best films I've ever seen of doing so much with so little--high praise indeed.

    Much like 2006's Casino Royale, JJ Abrams' Star Trek has breathed new life into a franchise many had left for dead. Star Trek was everything you could want in a summer blockbuster: action, suspense, special effects, and even some LOST-inspired plot-explorations. For a reboot film with such a loyal (and expectant) fan base, Abrams had to make an impact. Luckily his film is the perfect popcorn movie, especially considering it did not compromise the pillars of storytelling, dialogue, or character development. The reasons this film works are twofold--the effectiveness of a smart script that never takes itself too seriously is immeasurable, and the casting is note-perfect. Even with the actors playing such iconic characters like Kirk, Spock and Bones, Star Trek wouldn't have been the same if you didn't love these characters from the start. Abrams showed he had the chops for action in 2006's Mission Impossible 3, but he gave us an adventure in space few could have expected out of him.

    Favorite Performances:

    Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
    Christopher Waltz, Inglorious Basterds
    Carey Mulligan, An Education
    Sam Rockwell, Moon
    Anna Kendrick & Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
    Joseph Gordon-Levitt, (500) Days of Summer
    Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
    Patton Oswalt, Big Fan
    Chris Pine & Karl Urban, Star Trek
    Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen

    The second half of this list as well as my favorite moments of 2009 coming soon.

    Movies: Top 10 of the 2000s

  • Tuesday, January 5, 2010
  • Payton Bartee
  • What an amazing decade in film! Ten years ago, I was barely entering my teenage-dom, although a rabid love of The Matrix (33 viewings the summer of 2000) was whetting my appetite for the medium. As I look back, it leaves me speechless how quickly all those years evaporated. Anticipation is truly a sharp double-edged sword! You spend a year or so looking forward to a film, and in seemingly the next instant...you're purchasing it at some electronics store. My mind remembers those magical trailers for the movie adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved series sweeping the nation. My mind is lucky to have witnessed the brilliance and continued rise of PIXAR, ushering in a new era of classic Disney movies. My mind has been stretched, warped, numbed, and more--all for $10 and 90-120 minutes, give or take.

    With all the movies I saw in the 2000s, narrowing a "Best Of" list down to 10 selections is incredibly difficult. And from there, one is tempted to address the whole 'Best vs. Favorite' debate; I'll leave that one alone for now. Instead, I'll simply say that these 10 movies I've chosen for my Top 10 of the 2000s represent my favorite mixtures of elite film-making, exceptional story-telling, and personal connection. Some of these might not make your proverbial Top 10, but these are the ones I just keep coming back to, keep loving, keep dissecting. That's gotta be a compliment, right? Looking forward to what the 2010s bring!

    1. Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)
    2. Gladiator (2000)
    3. Memento (2001)
    4. The Dark Knight (2008)
    5. PIXAR (Up, Incredibles, WALL-E, Finding Nemo)
    6. No Country For Old Men (2007)
    7. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
    8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
    9. Master & Commander (2003)
    10. The Prestige

    Just missed the cut:

    Almost Famous (2000)
    25th Hour (2002)
    Casino Royale (2006)
    High Fidelity (2000)
    Avatar (2009)

    10 best performances: (in no particular order)

    -Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill Cutting, Gangs of New York / Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood
    -Heath Ledger as The Joker, The Dark Knight
    -Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, Memento
    -Andy Serkis as Gollum, The Lord of the Rings
    -Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men
    -Kate Winslet as Clementine, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    -Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall, A History of Violence
    -Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, The Assassination of Jesse James
    -Ryan Gosling as Dan Dunne, Half Nelson
    -Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland, Cast Away
    Copyright 2010 occasional contemplations