December 21th, 2009
Monday Evening, 11:59 PM
Today is the last day for this blog, exactly one year since the first post. It may come back, some time, some way, some form, but for now, this iteration will be put to bed with a breakdown of my favorite movies of the decade.
Last night my Brother-in-law was over for the gift exchange and we spent 30 minutes breaking down our favorite films of the past 10 year. Two things became clear, he lost 2 years of American Pop Culture influence while living in Europe and a quick review of the films showed how superior the 90s were then the 00s. Not to take away anything from this decade and some of the game changing cinema that was produced, but where is the Reservoir Dogs or Goodfellas or Saving Private Ryans of this decade. My response to that was they are all on TV. You could look at those three examples I gave and respond with The Wire, The Sopranos and Band of Brothers. From there you can tack on Mad Men, Lost, and even 30 Rock as examples of how the advantage lines between Cinema and Television have blurred. Maybe I have to do a TV Top 10 or 20 during the Holiday break.
For now here is my list of Top 40 favorites with a break down on the top 10. Unlike my Song list, this will be in classic countdown mode, starting at number 40.
40. In the Loop - 2009 - Dir. Armando Iannucci
39. Bad Santa - 2003 - Dir. Terry Zwigoff
38. Moon - 2009 - Dir. Duncan Jones
37. The Wedding Crashers - 2005 - Dir. David Dobkin
36. The Incredibles - 2004 - Dir. Brad Bird
35. Million Dollar Baby - 2004 - Dir. Clint Eastwood
34. Changing Lanes - 2002 - Dir. Roger Michell
33. About A Boy - 2002 - Dir. Chris Weitz
32. The Pianist - 2002 - Dir. Roman Polanski
31. Old School - 2003 - Dir. Todd Phillips
30. Gladiator - 2000 - Dir. Ridley Scott
29. Catch Me If You Can - 2002 - Dir. Steven Spielberg
28. 28 Days Later - 2002 - Dir. Danny Boyle
27. American Psycho - 2000 - Dir. Mary Harron
26. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind - 2004 - Dir. Michel Gondry
25. Meet the Parents - 2000 - Dir. Jay Roach
24. The Century of the Self - 2002 - Dir. Adam Curtis
23. Finding Nemo - 2003 - Dir. Andrew Stanton
22. Borat - 2006 - Dir. Larry Charles
21. Into the Wild - 2007 - Dir. Sean Penn
20. Once - 2006 - John Carney
19. Munich - 2005 - Dir. Steven Spielberg
18. Collapse - 2009 - Dir. Chris Smith
17. 25th Hour - 2002 - Dir. Spike Lee
16. Zodiac - 2007 - Dir. David Fincher
15. Little Children - 2006 - Dir. Todd Field
14. Fog of War - 2003 - Dir. Errol Morris
13. Mystic River - 2003 - Dir. Clint Eastwood
12. Before Sunset - 2004 - Dir. Richard Linklater
11. Up in the Air - 2009 - Dir. Jason Reitman
The Top Top of the 00s
10. Avatar - 2009 - Dir. James Cameron
I just saw this movie this past weekend (during the Blizzard of 09) and it has already cracked my top 10. I will not give anything away since many out there have not had a chance to see this film yet, but please do, it is why the gods created movies and why people still go to the theater. I do need to see Avatar again to let it live with me one more time and see if it should move up even higher as the years go on. For now I am comfortable with it at Number 10 (with a bullet). Overall Avatar offers a great story that transports you to a new world, unlike anything since Dorthy sets foot on Oz. It offers the best effects to date (you feel like your eyes are playing tricks on you at times). Even with some of the classic cheesy dialog that Cameron is notorious for, the movie still works in the highest order. Avatar is Kubrick level work.
9. Elf - 2003 - Dir. Jon Favreau
Thanks to having two children this decade, I have watched a ton of kids related films. Pixar and Disney have been represented earlier on this list and I am fortunate that those wizards work at Pixar. While Disney has perfected the art of telling stories for those from 8 to 80, they were not able to make a classic throwback Christmas story like Jon Favreau and Will Ferrell did with Elf. This movie is grossly underrated, from the Rankin Bass intro to the classic coming of age/man out of his element story, to Ferrell doing his best Jimmy Stewart turn as Buddy, everything in this story works. Elf is a Capraesque treasure that keeps getting better with each Christmas viewing.
8. The Hangover - 2009 - Dir. Todd Phillips
The most I have laughed at/with a movie this decade was when I watched this in the theater. It it sophomoric? You bet. Is the film clever, the cast perfect and the script tight as a drum? Absolutely. In most comedies this decade, there is that lull, that 20 minutes where you wish things went a little different, or the story didn't drag. Not the case with The Hangover. It's two hours of Vegas, impossible twist, tigers, Tyson, Baby Carlos and in the process, it's unadulterated fun.
7. The Departed - 2006 - Dir. Martin Scorsese
The one that finally got the West Coast blue-hairs to vote for East Coast Marty. We all know that Goodfellas is better and that Taxi Driver is his best film, but The Departed is the one that delivered Marty the goods. The film is supported by an all-star cast which helps to take a good film/story and makes it a great one. Leo, Matt and Jack are at their usual best, but it is the supporting cast that made me believe in this film. Performances like Mark Wahlberg's, Alec Baldwin's and especially the scenes that Vera Farmiga dominated with Leo and Matt, were all Oscar caliber supporting roles.
6. Memento - 2000 - Dir. Christopher Nolan
Even close to 10 years after its release Christopher Nolan's mind-f*ck of a movie still resonates. The story telling, the suspense, the acting, the clues, they all come back to you in some twisted, horror story of a dream. Guy Pearce shines as the short-term memory loss everyman trying to put the pieces of his life back together. With this film, the underrated Prestige and the two Batman man films, Nolan has made himself the auteur of the decade and the one to watch for the Teens. (His 2010 summer blockbuster to-be, Inception looks Nolan awesome already.)
5. Sideways - 2004 - Dir. Alexander Payne
Man I love this film. I love the pace and the script and the wine and the buddy movie aspect and most of all the acting, especially the scenes when Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen are interacting. To me there was no greater romance in the 00s then the budding, awkward dance that Giamatti and Madsen do when they are sitting, getting to know each other and talking about wine (really revealing everything about themselves). In the end, we do not know what happens, the door opens and the movie fades to black. But I have a feeling what happens after that and I would love to spend time with these characters again someday.
4. Children of Men - 2006 - Dir. Alfonso Cuarón
Not since the Blade Runner has a film painted a future world as grim and bleak. In a post 9/11 world we live, dystopian tales like Children of Men have been all the rage. While many tried, none were able to paint a world as potentially realistic as this film. Children of Men is set in the UK of 2027, the film explores a joyless existence in which two decades of global human infertility have left humanity with less than a century to survive. Clive Owen is excellent as a lifeless man thrust into guarding and protecting the only pregnant woman left in the world. The cinematography and especially several single-shot action sequences makes this film a contemporary sci-fi classic.
3. Michael Clayton - 2007 - Dir. Tony Gilroy
Tony Gilroy is my favorite writer/storyteller in cinema today. From the Bourne films to Duplicity to this modern classic, no one tells or spins the espionage better then Gilroy. Michael Clayton is a throw-back to those golden age of 70s cinema movies like Three Days of the Condor and Parallax View. In Gilroy's world, the big bad rouge government playing the villains have been replaced and morphed into big bad corporate fat cats. The cast is spot-on. Oscar winner Tilda Swinton shines as the corporate shark in-over-her-head, Tom Wilkinson is perfect as the is he or isn't he crazy whistle-blower, the late-great Sydney Pollack is impeccable (in one of those roles that only he could play) as the head of the law firm protecting the corporation and George Clooney is peerless as the underachieving, down-on-his-luck "fixer" that has to clean up this mess. The tension, the clever storytelling and the pay-off at the end make this film a repeat viewing treat.
2. The Dark Knight - 2008 - Dir. Christopher Nolan
I remember the moment this film was over and the title came up, vividly. This was the first film I saw when at the end I wanted to call my Dad and speak to him or tell him that he must see it. He passed a month before this came out, but I swear he was sitting next to me the entire time enjoying it with me.
These are the type of films (much like Avatar) that you need to see in the theater, in IMAX and you need to just let them take you away. The genius about Nolan's Dark Knight is not that it was the best Super Hero/Comic Book movie of the decade, it was that it is the best heist/gangster film of the decade. Nolan has changed the game for all comic book films (for the better IMHO). One can not watch a Spiderman or a Watchmen in the same light again. They all now seem lightweight and too out-of-this-world. The cinematography in this thing is superb, the drama is high and as always in Batman movies, the cast, this time the supporting cast is Oscar winning. The late Heath Ledger is a god in this film. He embodies the best Villain the movies have witnessed since Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lamb. I also love Gary Oldman's much overlooked everyman James Gordon. To me Oldman is the perfect conduit that connects all of us non-comic book characters to the madness that is going on all around. He is the moral backbone of the story, the one caught in conflict, the little man trying to figure out the good from the bad, the right from the wrong and how a hero should one day rise again. Bravo.
1. There Will Be Blood - 2007 - Paul Thomas Anderson
There Will Be Blood offers to the cinema world its best individual performance of the decade. It offers to the cinema world the best score of the decade. It offers the best cinematography of the decade. It offers the best line of the decade - "I Drink Your Milkshake!" All the while, offering the most haunting look at the impact that worship (Capitalism or Religion, Oil vs God) has on the human condition. To me PT Anderson is a marvel. From Boggie Nights to There Will Be Blood and all in between, he creates unique worlds, characters and conflicts that are both personal and surreal. To me this film, with its Citizen Kane like structure, its ambitious camera work and Daniel Day-Lewis flawlessly showing everyone that he is the best actor working in the world today, There Will Be Blood is the one film from the 00s that students and historians will be writing and talking about for many, many years to come. This scene sums it all up - Youtube:
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