Best Year’s Ever

As one year turns to the next in short order, it got me thinking. What are some examples of actors and directors who had remarkable calendar frames over the past few decades? The guidelines are pretty simple – the individual must have had two (and in a couple of cases, three or more) pictures that made an impact during 19(fill in the blank) or 20(fill in the blank).

And wouldn’t you know it? My ruminations quickly turned into a lengthy list that I’ve paired down to a top 25. Let’s call this Best Year’s Ever and count down from #25 to #1!

25. Channing Tatum (2012)

It was a busy year for the performer to say the least. Tatum was in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, but three major roles made him the star he is today. There was the hit romance The Vow, hit comedy 21 Jump Street, and his signature and semi-autobiographical title role in the summer sleeper Magic Mike (also from Mr. Soderbergh).

24. John Travolta (1996)

Two years following his major comeback in Pulp Fiction and a year following his Golden Globe nominated lead in Get Shorty, Travolta’s hot streak continued with three hits: John Woo’s action thriller Broken Arrow and fantasy dramas Phenomenon and Michael.

23. Clint Eastwood (1971)

The last two months of 1971 were fruitful for the legend. In November, he made his directorial debut with the well-reviewed psychological thriller Play Misty for Me. This began a career of dozens of behind the camera works, including Best Picture winners Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. In December, Eastwood starred as Dirty Harry which spawned his lucky cop franchise.

22. Sigourney Weaver (1988)

Weaver won two Golden Globes 30 years ago – Best Actress (Drama) for Gorillas in the Mist and Supporting Actress for Working Girl. She would be nominated for two Oscars as well, but come up short. All part of a remarkable decade that included Ghostbusters and Aliens.

21. Joe Pesci (1990)

Pesci won an Oscar for his unforgettable supporting work in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas. That same fall, he was a burglar terrorizing Macaulay Culkin in the holiday classic Home Alone.

20. Kevin Spacey (1995)

Current scandals aside, there’s no denying Spacey was the movie villain of 1995. He won an Academy Award as (spoiler alert!) Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects and as a demented serial killer in Seven. Earlier in the year, he costarred with Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman in  Outbreak and headlined the critically approved indie comedy Swimming with Sharks.

19. Nicolas Cage (1997)

Leaving Las Vegas awarded Cage his Oscar two years prior. By the summer of 1997, he was a full-fledged action hero with two blockbusters in the same month: Con Air and Face/Off.

18. Will Ferrell (2003)

Ferrell’s transformation from SNL favorite to movie star happened here with the spring’s Old School as Frank the Tank and in the winter as Buddy in Elf.

17. Morgan Freeman (1989)

The nation’s Narrator-in-Chief had a trio of significant roles nearly three decades ago – his Oscar nominated chauffeur in the Best Picture winner Driving Miss Daisy, a dedicated and stern principal in Lean on Me, and a Civil War officer in Glory.

16. Steven Soderbergh (2000)

The prolific filmmaker made two Best Picture nominees with Erin Brockovich and Traffic (he would win Best Director for the latter). Both surpassed the century mark at the box office and Julia Roberts won Best Actress for Brockovich and Benicio del Toro took Supporting Actor in Traffic.

15. Halle Berry (2001)

Ms. Berry had a revealing role in the summer action fest Swordfish. She then became the first (and thus far only) African-American to win Best Actress for Monster’s Ball. This was all sandwiched between XMen hits.

14. Hugh Jackman (2017)

Berry’s XMen cast mate Jackman retired his Wolverine character to critical and audience admiration with Logan in the spring. At the end of the year, his musical The Greatest Showman was an unexpected smash.

13. Leonardo DiCaprio (2002)

Five years after Titanic, the jury was still out as to whether DiCaprio’s leading man status would hold up. His roles in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can left little doubt. He’s been one of Hollywood’s most dependable stars since.

12. Francis Ford Coppola (1974)

In 1972, Coppola made perhaps the greatest American film of all time with The Godfather. Two years later, its sequel came with enormous expectations and exceeded them. Like part one, it won Best Picture. As if that weren’t enough, he made another Picture nominee in ‘74 with the Gene Hackman surveillance thriller The Conversation.

11. Michael Douglas (1987)

His signature role as greedy tycoon Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street won him an Oscar and gave him one of the most famous cinematic speeches ever. He also lit up the screen in the blockbuster thriller Fatal Attraction, which was the year’s second largest grosser.

10. Julia Roberts (1999)

She started the decade with a smash star making turn in Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts ended it with two romantic comedy summer $100 million plus earners: Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Runaway Bride (which reunited her with Pretty costar Richard Gere). She’d win her Oscar the next year for Erin Brockovich.

9. Tom Cruise (1996)

1986 wasn’t too shabby either with Top Gun and The Color of Money. Yet it’s a decade later that serves as Cruise’s year with the franchise starter Mission: Impossible in the summer and Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, which earned Cruise a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nod. They were the third and fourth biggest hits of the year, respectively.

8. Sandra Bullock (2013)

Nearly two decades after her breakout role in Speed, Bullock had a banner 2013 alongside Melissa McCarthy in the summer comedy The Heat and her Oscar nominated turn as a stranded astronaut in the fall’s Gravity.

7. Sylvester Stallone (1985)

Sly was the undisputed champion of the box office (not to mention sequels and Roman numerals) in 1985, notching the second and third top hits of the year behind Back to the Future. They were for his two signature characters with Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV.

6. Robert Downey Jr. (2008)

A decade after all the wrong kind of headlines for his drug addiction, Downey Jr. pulled off perhaps the most impressive comeback in movie history. 2008 saw him as Tony Stark in Iron Man, the film that kicked off the MCU in grand fashion. Later that summer came Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, which earned Downey a rare Oscar nod for a comedic performance.

5. Tom Hanks (1993)

There’s more than one year to consider for Hanks… 1995 (Apollo 13, Toy Story) comes to mind. Yet 1993 saw him with Meg Ryan in the now classic Sleepless in Seattle and winning an Oscar in Philadelphia as a lawyer diagnosed with AIDS. His status as a romantic and dramatic lead was solidified in a matter of months. A consecutive Academy Award followed in 1994 for Forrest Gump.

4. Mel Brooks (1974)

The director managed to make two of the most beloved comedies of all time in one year… Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. The two features combined contain some of the funniest scenes ever filmed.

3. Jennifer Lawrence (2012)

Already an Oscar nominee two years prior for Winter’s Bone, Lawrence’s road to superstardom was paved in 2012. In March came The Hunger Games, the year’s third top earner that spawned three sequels. In December came Silver Linings Playbook, where she won Best Actress.

2. Jim Carrey (1994)

In 1993, Carrey was known as a great cast member of Fox’s groundbreaking sketch show “In Living Color”. By the end of 1994, he was the most bankable comedic star in America as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber all hit screens.

1. Steven Spielberg (1993)

In a list filled with lots of choices, the #1 selection was rather easy. The highest grossing filmmaker of all time’s 1993 was astonishing. Dino tale Jurassic Park in the summer was a marvel technical achievement that began a franchise. At the time of its release, it became the largest grosser in history with the top opening weekend yet seen. Six months later, Holocaust epic Schindler’s List won seven Academy Awards (including Picture and for Spielberg’s direction).

I hope your New Year is your best yet, readers! Have a happy one…

Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses of All Time (25-21)

Hey all – a couple of years back, I wrote a series counting down the top 25 highest grossing actors at the domestic box office of all time. At that time in August 2014, there were four women among the 25. Now there’s just two.

This led me to think – who are the top 25 actresses in box office history? Well, wonder no more, friends! This five-part series will count down the women who have made the greatest impact financially at the multiplex. As with my previous list, I’ll list their career earnings, franchises they’ve been part of (which helps one to make this list, as you’ll see), their highest and lowest grossing pictures, and the number of $100M plus entries they have appeared in. I’ll also tell you where they rank on the overall list of biggest grossing performers when you factor the fellas in.

Before we dive into the actual list, here’s some women I figured might have been here, but didn’t make the cut. Despite that whole Titanic being one of the hugest blockbusters ever and multiple Oscar nominations thing, no Kate Winslet. No Drew Barrymore or Nicole Kidman or Charlize Theron. Same goes for Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Melissa McCarthy. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise wasn’t enough to vault Keira Knightley on here.

Enough of who didn’t make the list. Who did? Let’s get to it with numbers 25-21, shall we?

25. Kristen Stewart

Career Earnings: $1.8 billion

Franchises: Twilight

Highest Grossing Picture: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010) – $300 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 6 (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Twilight, Snow White and the Huntsman)

Lowest Grosser: Camp X-Ray (2014) – $13,000

Overall Rank: 116

24. Gwyneth Paltrow

Career Earnings: $1.8 billion

Franchises: The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Highest Grossing Picture: The Avengers (2012) – $623 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 6 (Iron Man 3, The Avengers, Iron Man 2, Iron Man, Shakespeare in Love, Seven)

Lowest Grosser: The Good Night (2007) – $22,000

Overall Rank: 111

23. Halle Berry

Career Earnings: $1.8 billion

Franchises: X-Men

Highest Grossing Picture: X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – $234 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 7 (X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X2: X-Men United, Die Another Day, X-Men, The Flintstones, Robots)

Lowest Grosser: Frankie & Alice (2011) – $706,000

Overall Rank: 106

22. Queen Latifah

Career Earnings: $1.8 billion

Franchises: Ice Age

Highest Grossing Picture: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) – $196 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 7 (Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Chicago, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Bringing Down the House, Hairspray, Valentine’s Day)

Lowest Grosser: The Perfect Holiday (2007) – $5.8 million

Overall Rank: 104

21. Julianne Moore

Career Earnings: $1.9 billion

Franchises: The Hunger Games

Highest Grossing Picture: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) – $337 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 5 (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Hannibal, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Fugitive)

Lowest Grosser: World Traveler (2002) – $103,000

Overall Rank: 97

And that’ll do it for today! I’ll be bringing you numbers 20-16 tomorrow…

Top 25 Best Movies (1990-2015): Nos. 10-6

This evening on the blog, we move to the top ten of my personal favorite 25 pictures of the past generation, from 1990 to now. Not an easy task for sure, but clearly all of these ten titles (top five coming tomorrow) are masterpieces in my book. Let’s get to it:

10. Seven (1995)

David Fincher’s run of terrific movies began with this gut wrenching serial killer tale with Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, and a deliciously sadistic Kevin Spacey. The final act of these proceedings represent some of the most intense moments on film I’ve ever witnessed.

9. Up (2009)

Over the last 20 years, the creme de la creme of family entertainment has come from Pixar with the Toy Story franchise, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Inside Out, and so on. To me, their absolute high point is Up. I wrote a post on the blog before discussing the sequence which shows the main character’s romance with his wife throughout her life. It’s one of the most beautifully constructed and emotional montages I’ve ever seen, period.

8. The Social Network (2010)

Back to David Fincher again and here we have his brilliant tale of the founding of Facebook that I contend will stand as one of the most important pictures to explain the time we live in.

7. Almost Famous (2000)

Cameron Crowe’s autobiographical tale of his youth spent at Rolling Stone magazine is one of the ultimate feel good experiences filled with great music and performances. The bus scene set to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” is perfect and one of the best examples ever put to film about music advancing the story line.

6. Groundhog Day (1993)

In a career filled with amazing performances, Bill Murray is at his apex in this uproarious and also touching tale of one very long day. It is easily my favorite comedy of the last many years.

And that’ll do it for today and the top five will hit the blog tomorrow!

Ranking David Fincher

This weekend, director David Fincher’s latest film Gone Girl posted his largest box office debut among his ten pictures he’s made over the past two decades plus.

The 52 year old actually his start in the world of music videos and his long list of credits includes Madonna’s “Vogue” and “Express Yourself”, Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun”, Don Henley’s “The End of the Innocence”, Michael Jackson’s “Who Is It?”, George Michael’s “Freedom 90”, The Rolling Stones’ “Love is Strong”, and Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”.

Fincher would get his big break in film with a beloved sci-fi franchise, though his entry failed to meet audience expectations and his directorial career was looking shaky. Three years later, an unexpected hit would arise and since then, Fincher’s never looked back. And by doing so, he’s provided audiences with some of the greatest and often darkest entertainment in cinema for 20 years.

In honor of his 10th effort, I decided to take on the very difficult task of ranking every Fincher flick from 10-1. Let me make one thing clear… there’s not one of these films that you shouldn’t watch if you haven’t already… he’s that good.

Here we go!

10. Alien 3 (1992)

Not nearly as bad as its reputation, Alien 3 does certainly suffer in comparison to Alien and Aliens, but it gives viewers a first taste of Fincher’s distinct visual style. The shoot of Alien 3 was a notoriously difficult one and Fincher was brought in at the last minute after several others dropped out. The result is uneven, but still worthwhile.

9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

The first of his pictures to receive Oscar attention is actually the only Fincher feature I would call slightly overrated. Stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are solid and the visuals are undeniably remarkable, but it’s overlong and not as involving as it should be.

8. Panic Room (2002)

This might be a conventional home invasion thriller if not for Fincher’s splendid technical work, a forceful lead performance by Jodie Foster, and an unexpectedly great turn by Dwight Yoakam as a demented burglar.

7. Gone Girl (2014)

Fincher followed up Tattoo by taking on another celebrated novel and the results were quite pleasing. Like Mara in Tattoo, Rosamund Pike received an Oscar nod in this thriller that would make Hitchcock proud.

6. Zodiac (2007)

The true life police procedural focusing on the mysterious Zodiac killer is right up Fincher’s alley with a sturdy lead performance from Jake Gyllenhall and Robert Downey Jr. beginning his remarkable comeback as an alcoholic reporter. The murder scenes are disturbing in ways only its director can pull off.

5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Many were skeptical that Fincher could pull off adapting this beloved book, but he accomplished that and then some here. Rooney Mara earned an Oscar nod and a sequel is still rumored with Fincher participating.

4. The Game (1997)

It might be implausible when you rewatch it over and over, but it doesn’t much matter. The mind warp of a thriller starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn is one helluva ride.

3. Fight Club (1999)

Fincher’s most polarizing effort has a lot to say about its generation, materialism, and conformity. It took me a second viewing to realize this a pitch black comedy… and it’s an astonishing one with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton shining in their roles.

2. Seven (1995)

This is the picture where Fincher truly emerged after the disappointment of Alien 3… and did he ever. The last 30 minutes, I would argue, is possibly the most intense segment of a movie. Ever.

1. The Social Network (2010)

When it was announced that the wonderful David Fincher was making a movie about the founding of Facebook, cinema lovers were confused and highly suspicious that he’d gone off the rails. Turned out he made one of the most important films of our era. Lesson: don’t doubt Mr. Fincher.

And there you have it! Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on his best works and, as I said, if you haven’t seen all of these titles – you should.

Oh… and I forgot to mention he also directed a number of Paula Abdul videos, including “Straight Up”. So here’s that!