In my capacity as Mrs. Movie Lady, the lady who “tells it like it is” at MrsMovieLady.com and on Topeka radio station KPZX-FM, I see literally dozens of movies a year. And at the end of the year, I get to tell you which ones were the very best. So don’t miss any of these classics! Many of them are now available on VHS.
Francine Pickens’ (aka Mrs. Movie Lady) Top 10 Movies of 2004
10. “Connie and Carla” Nia Vardalos, fresh off the success of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (which you’ll recall I declared to be the best movie of 2002), slam dunks another home run with this hilarious caper about two women who dress up as men and become cabaret singers! But it’s not a “drag,” if you know what I mean. It’s really great! Connie you imagine a funnier movie than this one? Carla all your friends on the phone and tell them about it!
9. “The Village” Good Night, Mr. Shyamalan! Who’d have thought after “The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable” and “Signs” that you’d come up with ANOTHER brilliant idea for a movie? What do you need to have thrills, chills and shocking twists? It takes a “Village”!
8. (tie) “First Daughter” and “Chasing Liberty” Move over, Bush twins! Both of these movies are about the president’s daughter getting into mischief, and since I can’t tell them apart, I decided to include them BOTH on the list! Hilary Duff, who simply cannot be duff-eated at the box office, starred in one, and if she isn’t the Next Big Thing, then I don’t know who the Next Big Thing is, nor what Hilary Duff is instead! Both movies earn the Mrs. Movie Lady presidential seal of approval. Hail to these chiefs!
7. “De-Lovely” You can keep your movies about Ray Charles and Bobby Darin. I’ll take this biography of Cole Porter any day! Who knew Kevin Kline could sing and play the piano? And who knew the guy who wrote the musical “Kiss Me, Kate” only had one leg for part of the time? A lump of “Cole” in your stocking if you didn’t like this de-licious, de-lightful de-tribute to one of America’s greatest slightly gay men!
6. “Christmas with the Kranks” I’ve seen the colorized version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but it didn’t make me laugh nearly as much as this modern classic. It Kranks right up there with the remake of “Miracle on 34th Street” in my book! Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis should leave their respective spouses and marry each other, because their chemistry together is perfect!
5. “The Day After Tomorrow” You want action, adventure, excitement and romance? You can’t have it now; you’ll have to take it “The Day After Tomorrow.” (Just kidding. You can have it now.)
4. (tie) “Catwoman” and “Garfield: The Movie” If you’d told me at the beginning of the year that two of my favorite films would be about cats, I’d have thought you were crazy! (Sorry to be blunt, that’s just me telling it like it is!) But sure enough, both of these movies — one about a sexy vixen who fights crime, the other starring Halle Berry — are purrr-fect. Bill Murray as the voice of Garfield: Who knew he could do comedy so well?
3. “Wimbledon” This movie is about “love” — and I mean the tennis term “love,” not the word that means liking someone a lot! Although it is about that, too. The main character is played by Paul Bettany, and I’m bettin’ ‘e could get any lady he wants with his charming good looks. And as for his co-star Kirsten Dunst, I’m not done st-aring at how gorgeous she is! Game, set, match, “Wimbledon” “nets” my vote for the year’s best romantic comedy — and I’m not just saying that to make a “racket”!
2. “Shall We Dance” Richard Gere is gere-ate, as usual, as a man who considers cheating on his wife with Jennifer Lopez. Cheating is wrong, gentlemen, but who wouldn’t want to do the tango with Ms. Lopez?! Some say she shouldn’t be in movies, but I say there’s ALWAYS room for J-Lo, especially in a movie about ballroom dancing. You can’t “cha-cha-“change my mind on this one: If these “waltz” could talk, they’d tell you that “Shall We Dance” fox trots all the way to No. 2 on my list.
1. “National Treasure” When was the last time you went to the movies and not just had a great time, but also learned something? “National Treasure” gives us excitement and thrills as Nicolas Cage — can I call him St. Nicolas, because he’s always giving us the gift of great movies? — and a pretty lady try to save the Declaration of Independence from bad guys. But it also teaches us some interesting facts about the Founding Fathers, such as where they hid their gold. I’d pay my last nickel and become “Nicolas” just to see “National Treasure.” This is one movie that lives up to its title!
This column owes a bit of its premise to a "Saturday Night Live" sketch from 2001 called "Fretts Film Forum." It was a parody of local-TV movie-review shows, with four no-name critics sitting around heaping praise on mediocre and forgettable movies, usually with puns and wordplay. (In fact, Richard Gere being "gear-ate" came from that sketch.) My favorite moment was Will Ferrell talking about "Fantasia 2000," declaring, "'Fantasia' is fantasgreat!" Ironically, Ben Affleck was in the sketch, making fun of bad movies, and now he's done almost nothing but bad movies since then.
Francine Pickens was a tricky character to write. I didn't want to make her clueless or misinformed (i.e., no misspelling people's names or getting movie titles wrong, the way Jackie Harvey does in his hilarious column in The Onion). I just wanted her to have poor taste in movies and to sound like the sort of critic no sensible person would ever take seriously. There are many critics like that, and yet many people DO take them seriously, which I suppose is why I feel the need to mock them.
I initially toyed with having Francine grade all her movies based on how clean they were -- high marks for "A Cinderella Story," low marks for "Kill Bill Vol. 2," and so on -- but I decided that joke would get old too fast. Plus, it would probably offend all the "Snide Remarks" readers who grade their movies the same way.
If I'd had more time and inclination, I'd have written full-length (well, 200 or 300 words) reviews of the films here, in the voice of Mrs. Movie Lady Francine Pickens, and linked to them from her list. But I think that's one of those things that's better as an idea than as an actual deed.