So we finally get to the one that really matters. To adjust to the occasion accordingly, this bitch is a bit longer then previous entries, but given the gravity of list-making at work here I'm sure you'll forgive me this indulgence. So, the TWENTY-FIVE best films of the decade, so says yours truly.
25) The Royal Tenenbaums
This is perhaps the highest point quirk based film-making ever got, before every 'indie' film in the consequent nine years absorbed the idea and it became almost as formulaic as studio fare. But this is not to take away from what in all likeliness will remain Wes Anderson's finest hour. A fantastic combination of colorful, stylistic extravagance and restrained emo-ing. What sets it apart from Anderson's other films is the presence of Gene Hackman, who lends some welcome animation and warmth to Anderson's often suffocatingly deadpan universe. But the two combined works a treat.
24) Donnie Darko
Richard Kelly is looking increasingly like a one hit wonder, so to speak, but if this is the only great film Kelly ever makes, then its a hell of a film to be remembered for. I think Donnie Darko is a great film almost in spite of the sci-fi, which works precisely because it is shrouded in mystery. What makes this debut great is the small-town satire and character work, containing very strong performances across the board (Particularly from Battlestar Galactica's Mary McDonnell), which is then accentuated by the occasional flashes of supernatural crazy. There's a strong sense of humanity and wit to the film, and that for me is what makes it great. Remove that aspect of it and you basically have Southland Tales or The Box, all crazy ideas with no reason to give a shit.
23) Let The Right One In
Vampires are polluting everything but the air we breathe these days, from tween mega-franchise Twilight to The Campy but occasionally awesome HBO show True Blood. The ironic thing is those two products tell the same core story as Let The Right One In. In which a tortured vampire falls in love with a human. It goes to show how much of the magic is in the execution then, because Let The Right One In soars to levels those labels could only dream of. Given the similarity of story, it can only be this film's nuance that sets it apart. And it does, it tells its particular love story with a sweetness and a sadness ( and a standard of acting) that make all else seem immature by comparison. An immensely powerful, intimate genre film.
22) American Psycho
American Psycho may not be a masterpiece, it may not be particularly subtle or flawless in its telling. But what it is, to use academic phrasing, is plain fucking awesome. Its gleeful wickedness and strong sense of black comedy and parody of 80's yuppie culture, make it perhaps our decade's slasher film for the intellectual. What really rises it above the level of curio is Christian Bale's career-making, unleashed performance which is basically entertainment nirvana. Its popularity is ever-growing and in twenty years it will have lost none of its draw, and that certainly can't be said for every other film on this list.
21) Amores Perros
Sure, people will go for 21 Grams or Babel because there's no subtitles, which is a good point, but in spite of that I think Innaritu's best film remains his first, which has a more visceral power then those that followed. That's not to say the weren't good, or even great, but given the similarity of structure between all three, I think the first dose of something new remains the strongest, because from then on you repeat yourself, which lessens impact, even if Sean Penn is involved.
Perhaps the best movie for the middle-aged that ever was. But as a viewer of an age well below that target demographic I still enjoy the fuck out of this movie. Its a clever, funny and often painfully insightful. The kind of underplayed comedy that there really should be more of. Still even if there were, there would be few as good as this, which represents the maturing of the very talented Alexander Payne, and sees at least three epic performances from Virginia Madsen, Thomas Haden Church and in particular Paul Giamatti.
19) Taxi To The Dark Side
Because it allows the facts to appall you in their own right, rather then with the helping hand of overwroughtedness a la Michael Moore of late ( although Bowling For Columbine missed this list by a whisker) its so much more horrifying. Detailing the atrocities and use of torture by the US Government against foreign combatants, in terrifying detail, there's never been a documentary to so effectively show us the appalling consequence of what we long ago justified. Its hard to see ourselves as the white hats after this.
I think this film was the best combination of what Pixar does best, which is amalgamation of moving you, entertaining you and wowing you. Ratatouille is more fun then what came after it but more mature then what came before it, and for me represents Pixar at their pinnacle. I'd like to also give a shout-out to the under-rated talents of Brad Bird, who has given us the Iron Giant, The Incredibles and this, a trio of movies better then many more highly respected film-makers can match.
17) Requiem For A Dream
Pi was promising, but Requiem For a Dream really did announce the arrival of a great film-maker. The film's innovate visuals and immense standard of acting, with Ellen Burstyn being the standout, but Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans ( Yes Marlon Wayans of Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2, White Chicks, Dungeons And Dragons, Little Man, Norbit AND GI Joe: Rise Of The Cobra) have never been better. The kind of film that is so good it makes other films look lazy by comparison.
16) Pan's Labyrinth
Well who would have thought that the director of Mimic had this in him. Del Toro, prior to this was quite close to the arena of Hollywood hired hand (albeit a good one), with Blade 2 and Hellboy already on his resume. But then comes this, a magnificently told, impressive in nearly every way, full-out masterpiece of modern cinema. It creates a magnificent sense of wonder in its fantasy sequences, all the while making its reality set scenes almost more intriguing, thanks in large to the fantastic characterization Of Sergi Lopez' Captain Vidal. A film to inspire a cinema lover if there ever was one.
15) Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers
The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy's greatness is something that is easy to under-estimate, because at this point we've seen it enough times, and its imitators enough times, to take it for granted. But Jackson created a visually wondrous, truly epic experience that both sublimely entertains and impresses. They are masterpieces of populist movie-making really. The Two Towers is the strongest, because while the first is an almost joyous quest movie with an impressively somber ending, the third notoriously ended too many times, leaving the second with its constant presence of hopelessness and dark psychological ferocity, not to mention the awesome Helm's Deep battle, which shall remain for a long time one of the more impressive things you have seen on a cinema screen.
14) United 93
I've seen the Bourne Ultimatum make a few lists of this nature, which to me just seems a little silly when you remember that Paul Greengrass also made this film, which is beginning to look like an increasingly forgotten classic, despite its reviews being almost unanimously glowing. Its a film that's not so much political, but simply current, which is in itself daring. (it really shouldn't be, but such is Hollywood's attitude to anything approaching politics in cinema) This is more a tale of the courage of the passengers of United 93 more than anything else, not glamorizing it, but simply showing it as it probably was. Immense kudos for not demonizing the terrorists either, who are even sympathetic despite their apparent monstrosity. An intelligent, bleakly honest and an ultimately very powerful film.
Call it the feel good film of the decade. Reviewers seem to have a lot of time for intensity and tragedy, but when a film communicates happiness and optimism as well as this, it should be equally rewarded. And this is cinema as if it were the most delicious dessert you've ever tasted but also if that meal contained moments of unexpected and impressive complexity, which Amelie does in places (It so does. Check out the bit with the middle-aged man.) But I guess its main calling card, is the ridiculously amazing sense of style that Jean Pierre Jeunet brings to the film. The man who for once and for all decked the Alien Franchise in the balls dusted himself off and made one of the best films of the decade. In your face, I guess.
12) There Will Be Blood
Daniel Day Lewis consumed this film. He so wowed critics and viewers with his truly awesome performance that he almost rose above the film and it was belittled in his presence. Which I'm not sure is quite fair. Lewis may be astounding, but Anderson is equally as on fire, both as a director and writer. The film looks truly spellbinding, and there's a genuine, existential horror amongst the opportunism and the oil wells. In selfishness there is loneliness, and this is something that few other films have told quite so beautifully.
11) The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Despite it being a western in name, Andrew Dominik's triumphant return to the helm after a seven year resting spell after the equally awesome - and also only just not on this list - Chopper, has the darkness and violence more commonly associated noir genre. This is then a Western-noir, and the best of its kind that ever was. Dominik commands every frame with meticulousness, in a way that reminds me of David Fincher at his best. There's also Casey Affleck's amazing performance as the titular Robert Ford, and given how good he is here, he should have had some seriously bigger roles then he has received.
10) Spirited Away
Nine out of times I have no time for anime. Its too often excessive without merit and reminds me too much of Pokemon. The exception to this is certainly the work of Hayao Miyazaki, who rather then adopt the ' look at this random stream of cool shit' attitude of most anime's, invests his films with heart and innocent, child-like sense of wonder and also a real talent for story-telling, which in turn allows the random stream cool shit to become a purposeful stream of cool shit. And thus he is on to something special. Spirited Away will perhaps remain his masterpiece, but he's someone whose films I'll never lose interest in seeing.
Michael Haneke, who might be the most relentlessly bleak and cynical film-maker of the decade, is also a fucking good one. One would have to be into some serious deprecatory mentalities to call his films an enjoyable experience, but what they are great movies. So rich in texture and design that they are the kind of films that could be studied and explored at great length and still leave you feeling intellectually inadequate. Hidden shows that Haneke isn't above scaring the living shit out of his audience either, which is perhaps what makes it his best work. An existential horror movie of the finest kind.
8) The Dark Knight
I think I already used my populist masterpiece bit when discussing Lord Of The Rings earlier, but for what they were in visual awe-inducement, the Dark Knight is in near everything else. Its quite something to make one of the best films of the decade about a dude dressed as a bat fighting another dude dressed as a clown, but Nolan went ahead and did it. Creating an intelligent, challenging, purposeful and magnificently thought out movie that for all the slew of adjectives I could throw at it, so wonderfully speaks for itself. And Heath Ledger is pretty good too.
7) No Country For Old Men
The Coens, with Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers, were having a shaky decade. People were throwing around terms like 'washed up' with abandon. But being the contrary guys that they are, they gave their detractors the finger and made the best movie they've made possibly ever ( I can't say its better then The Big Lebowski, I just can't.) All it took was an injection of seriousness, a couple of great, under-utilized actors and they redefined what the well trodden thriller genre could do.
6) Mulholland Drive
Yeah. Having seen this film a more then respectable amount of time, I still don't feel comfortable talking about it in depth because I fear there's something I might be missing. But then you realize that what the film's about, as infuriatingly intriguing as it is, doesn't matter all that much. Its a masterpiece of atmosphere, of suspense. And no film in my memory has used unanswerable mystery in a way that the audience loves quite so much. Visual story-telling at its absolute best. Plus there's a fair amount of lesbian sex for those who can't be bothered with all that.
This may be a matter of personal preference, but I love this movie, almost more then in any other aspect, for just being this movie. Having enough faith in its audience to be a thoughtful, truly accurate investigative movie. The sheer, agonizing frustration of it. You don't just click your fingers for your revelation. Its back-breaking, unrewarding and horrifying in that sometimes it means nothing at all. The only deserving successor to All The President's Men that the elapsing time between them has produced.
4) The Lives Of Others
The most perfectly written, intelligently affecting character study of the decade. And well there's plenty of prescient thought about communist occupied East Berlin, and the very nature of eaves dropping itself, its characters struggles and beliefs are so magnificently realized I'd have no problem calling it the dramatically richest film of the decade. If that were the only factor, this film would be unquestionably number one. As it is, I wish it could be number one as I have done for the previous six or seven films above it, given that there is so little wrong with ny of them. C'est la vie.
I once saw this described as the kind of film that 'reminds you why you fell in love with cinema in the first place.' Nothing I could say would as effectively describe it better then that, because that's exactly what it does. The film is so good that it validates you sitting through endless amount of films that disappoint and otherwise enrage you. This is why you do it. This is how good it can be. Oldboy is a uncompromising neo-noir classic in every sense of the word.
The movie that spawned a thousand gimmick's. But fuck those movies because when a 'gimmick' works as well as this, it brings with it a wondrous originality. You had truly never seen a film like Memento, and despite its rip-offs it remains a testament of genius via cinematic ingenuity. You knew once you had seen this film that Christopher Nolan was meant for great things, and none of us were wrong. Dude has two films in my top ten, for fuck's sake, and many more in other people's. Memento is so fucking good it may remain his best, and I'm fully confident Nolan will make several great films yet.
1) City Of God
Like I said, separating the movies in this list has been like choosing which one of my teeth is going to be pulled out with those pliers from the Hostel posters. Its that hard. They're all so good and who am I to say which one is narrowly better. But if I were do that in spite of myself, I'd have to say that as a cinematic achievement, I think City Of God is the most glorious of all the many great films this decade has produced, its all so wonderfully layered and designed. Director Meirelles, who has since made two 7/10 films, brought the noise here so to speak. A near perfect film, or as near to perfectas it is possible for a film to be.
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