Wednesday, December 09, 2009

TOP 40 IN FILM, 2000-2009

Seldom do we use this platform for anything but our own joie de vivre over beer, but there have been exceptions. There were the baseball picks for ’09 this past April. How’d that Boston over St. Louis World Series pick work out for us? Hey, at least they both made the playoffs. My top films of the last ten years? Well, there’s no argument there – probably not even from you once you see my picks. Yeah yeah, I got the idea from Aaron over at The Vice Blog – he did his own Top 25 last week, and challenged me, you and others to do the same. Me, I’m a listmaker – love ‘em. I went as far as 40 great films and stopped there, because after about 40 things ran a little more thin. And of course I’d have put this list on my film blog, but I don’t have one anymore.

Overall verdict? Great, great decade for film. Arguably the third best ever, after the 1970s and the 1960s, in that order. Many of the films listed here are commonly recognized as masterpieces, but I encourage you if you see something on here you’ve never heard of (my bets are on “Nobody Knows”, a sparse Japanese film about children abandoned in their apartment by their wayward mother, and “Reprise”, an excellent Danish film about what happens to two young writers & best friends when one drifts into mental illness), give it a try on Netflix or however you consume the films of the past.

Here are 40 excellent reasons why this decade was a fantastic one for film, ranked in order of how much I enjoyed them:

1. MEMENTO (2000) – I’ve seen it a half-dozen times, and it blows me away each time as much as it did the first time in 2000. Saw it two successive weeks in the theater, and spent an hour-plus each time afterward arguing it through and piecing it together with friends. Amazingly inventive, reverse-narrative thriller that’s one of my favorite films of any era. #1 with a big fat bullet for these past ten years.

2. UNITED 93 (2006) – I shed real tears after this one, probably because I’ve never seen such a hyper-real film that wasn’t a documentary. I was more caught up in and emotionally devastated by it than I was 9/11 itself. The story of United Airlines flight 93, told just as it happened in near-real time on September 11th, 2001, and starring some of the same air traffic control personnel who actually lived through the horror of that plane’s fate on the real day itself.

3. CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS (2003) – A harrowing documentary that plays like a whodunit, all within the confines of a single messed-up Long Island family in the 1970s. Duly recognized by many as one of the great documentaries of all time and a standard-bearer for what the form is capable of.

4. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2008) – This was an instant film classic the moment it came out, an epic sweep of one man’s greed, ego and lust for redemption in oil-crazy California a century ago. Daniel Day-Lewis puts on the performance of his lifetime, which is saying something, but the script & the direction were just as much the stars of this newly-minted landmark.

5. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2008) – Only a hair’s breath behind “There Will Be Blood” in my book; I, like most others, saw both films within mere weeks of each other in 2008. That’s when I decided that the 2000s were a decade nearly as special as any other, cinema-wise. This film was terrifying for two entire hours, with foreboding & fear punctuating every slow scene, with every moment about ready to erupt. Javier Bardem is one of the all-time evil bad guys, and this is the best film the Coens have ever made as far as I’m concerned.

6. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004) – I remember walking out of the film and telling my wife that we’d just seen a masterpiece. A film with Jim Carrey (!), no less. This was all about Michael Gondry’s direction and his & Charlie Kaufman’s masterful script. A couple undergo a procedure to erase each other from their respective memories when their relationship goes bad, yet in their loss find ways to connect again. Totally original and a blast to watch unfold on screen.

7. THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU (2005) – Romanian film got a lot of very deserved attention this past decade, primarily thanks to this sad, strange film & only afterward to those that followed. The camera essentially follows a dying man through the morass of Romanian healthcare and personal indifference on one single night, as his lonely and (on the surface) meaningless life flickers out. Never seen anything quite like it. Not a feel-good film by any means, but one I can’t recommend highly enough.

8. MY SUMMER OF LOVE (2004) – This British film seems to have been passed over by a lot of folks, but it was one of the best films I saw in 2004. Two teenage girls spend a summer together in the Yorkshire countryside, and the film “charts the emotional and physical hothouse effects that bloom one summer” between them. Just when you think you’ve figured out where it’s all headed, it heads in a very unexpected direction, and turns into some devastating mind games, the kind that are all the more painful when you’re young & infatuated. Ingmar Bergman would have been very proud.

9. BORAT – CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN (2006) – A trailblazing comedy that took the mockumentary/documentary form to new highs and lows. These are some of the best pranks (and the best editing) of all time, and I’d watch this film anytime, anywhere.

10. DOGVILLE (2003) – I almost wouldn’t go see this when I learned it was filmed completely on one stage, with a “set” like you’d see in a theater play (nonexistent doors that people “knock” on, etc.). But it was Lars Von Trier, and I totally dig (dug?) Lars – outside of “Breaking The Waves”, this is his best. It’s a three-hour transformation of Nicole Kidman from “poor girl on the run from the mob” to vengeful murderess, in a film that explores goodness and good intentions in that bizarre, off-kilter way that Von Trier has made his signature, and which is nearly impossible to describe.

The next 30, all of which are must-sees:

11. BLOODY SUNDAY
12. Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN
13. MARIA FULL OF GRACE
14. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
15. AMELIE
16. REQUIEM FOR A DREAM
17. 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS
18. SIDEWAYS
19. NOBODY KNOWS
20. GHOST WORLD
21. CHILDREN OF MEN
22. GRIZZLY MAN
23. LANTANA
24. THE DARK KNIGHT
25. DANCER IN THE DARK
26. WALL-E
27. 21 GRAMS
28. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
29. TRAINING DAY
30. ADAPTATION
31. TOUCHING THE VOID
32. BRICK
33. MATCH POINT
34. TRAFFIC
35. AFTER THE WEDDING
36. THE HURT LOCKER
37. UNDER THE SAND
38. CHUCK & BUCK
39. JUNEBUG
40. REPRISE

15 comments:

Shawn said...

Wow, I'm surprised how many of those I didn't see. Also, it's always interesting to see someone else's taste laid out like this. I liked Memento, but it's not in my top ten for the decade.

Shawn said...

Here's a few others I really liked:

Gladiator
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
City of God
Infernal Affairs
Letters from Iwo Jima
Lost in Translation
Little Miss Sunshine
Adaptation
Almost Famous
Kill Bill (both)
Superbad (seriously)

Aaron Goldfarb said...

A very nice list, we clearly have similar tastes as my top 10 is pretty much completely resprented in your top 40. I admire the international scope of your list.

And there's amazingly a movie on there I haven't seen! (When you're a huge film nerd that so rarely happens!) "My Summer of Love" has been added straight to the netflix queue!

So I guess "Hurt Locker" is your #1 of 2009?

Jay said...

Shawn, "Superbad" was fantastic and barely missed this list. Aaron, I think "Hurt Locker" is probaby the best thing I've seen so far in 2009, but I watch a lot of this stuff on video so naturally have missed a lot. Have not seen Inglorious Basterds yet, for instance, nor a lot of the foreign films I usually find out about a year after they've left the theaters.

mumbly said...

I've seen all but six and enjoyed most. I can only strongly disagree with Dogville and Sideways. I saw Following, Christopher Nolan's film before Memento, at the SF Film fest and was blown away by and and was waiting in eager anticipation for Memento. It did not disappoint.

Good to know there are others out there with such good taste in beer *AND* movies.

Jay said...

Mumbly, I'm not surprised that you (and many others) hated Dogville - definitely Von Trier is an acquired taste, and I'm not sure if he's made a good film in 4 years; the last few sound so awful I haven't gone to see them. But Sideways? You seriously took issue with Sideways?

sdd said...

Did you see "Inland Empire"?
I talked about that movie so much after I saw it that my wife was considering having me committed.

andy w said...

No love for Wes Anderson?

Sean said...

There is a documentary called Born Into Brothels. It was so fucking harrowing that I could not watch the whole thing. Great movie, but you hate the world even more than usual after watching it, or watching as much of it as you can stomach

Jay said...

Sean, I've been wanting to see that, and "Darwin's Nightmare", both of which look incredibly bleak and intense. One documentary I LOVED and which helped shape my renewed views on Iraq war was "No End in Sight", made when things were at their absolute worst over there. That could have easily made this list.

Anonymous said...

Fog Of War
The Squid And The Whale
High Fidelity
You Can Count On Me
Man On Wire
Before Sunset
Royal Tenenbaums
Gleaners And I
Waltz With Bashir
Persepolis
In The Mood For Love
George Washington
Amores Peros
Spirited Away
Dig!
The Devil And Daniel Johnston

Anonymous said...

A few others worthy of mention:
Station Agent
In The Realms Of The Unreal
King Of Kong
Old Joy
We Jam Econo: The Story Of The Minutemen

BR said...

Let The Right One In? Having already read the book, I barely got through the movie.

And no love for Dirty Pretty Things?

Dale said...

Because of the last decade ended up bringing mostly kid fare movies into our house I missed a lot of movies I wanted to see. In the new year I will start the process of finally catching up. Jay, Thanks for this list and pointing me into some directions to seek

mumbly said...

So I'm actually a reasonably big fan of Lars. I liked Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark quite a bit. Enjoyed the Idiots, too. And I want to see Antichrist. But Dogville just didn't work for me. But yes, it is probably going to be the most difficult movie on your list.

I think my reaction to Sideways is in part due to how hyped it was. But I really thought it was pretty amateurish and was shocked when I learned it was the same director as Election and Citizen Ruth, both of which I thought were not only better movies, but better directed.

I recently revisited the movie and was still unimpressed, but I'm still suffering from my initial reaction when I say I strongly disagree (though I've only moved up to mediocre).