FirstShowing's Writers Choose the Best Movies of the Decade
by Alex Billington
January 1, 2010
It's that time of the year again. Not only is that time of the year, but it's that time of the decade - the end of both. And if you know anything about anything, you know that when something ends, well, you make a list about it. What do you think a eulogy is? It's your life's Top 10 list. Instead of creating one definitive list for this past decade, I asked my best writers - Brandon Lee Tenney, Ethan Anderton, Marco Cerritos - to come up with their own Best of the Decade lists. Below you'll find each of the lists and a brief write-up explaining why they chose the movies that they did. So without further ado, let's find out what they chose!
Before you ask, "Where's your list Alex?" I want to explain, briefly, why I didn't come up with my own Best of the Decade list. Not only did I run out of time, but I simply felt like I hadn't seen enough from this decade (since I only started FS.net in 2006) and I'm still seeing all kinds of movies I haven't seen every single day. But I can tell you that Return of the King would be my #1 followed closely by The Dark Knight and then City of God. Now I leave it to my much more qualified staff to tell you what they think is this Best of the Decade.
So here it is, folks. Here are my ten favorite films of the past decade. The aught's filmic eulogy. Of course, your Top 10 will probably look a lot different than mine. If not, then a) that's creepy and b) if you happen to be a woman who also has film #9 on her list, give me a call. What I mean to say is, please disagree with me. Let me know how shortsighted I am. Show me your Top 10. I'm sincerely interested. And it's only fair; I'm showing you mine. Without further ado, here they are: my Top 10 Films of the Decade, 2000 to 2009.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
2. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
3. Closer (2004)
4. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
5. A Very Long Engagement (2004)
6. The Fountain (2006)
7. Gladiator (2000)
8. Atonement (2007)
9. Vanilla Sky (2001)
10. The Dark Knight (2008)
Honorable Mentions: Pan's Labyrinth, Oldboy, Signs, House of Flying Daggers, Stranger than Fiction, Primer, The Incredibles, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Synecdoche New York, Avatar.
There you have 'em. Yes, Vanilla Sky is on the list. I love that movie. It's beautifully shot and even more beautifully written. Cameron Crowe raises some serious questions amid the trippy imagery and twisting plot. Questions of technology and its effect on our temporary, mortal lives. Questions of just what makes a life worth living. Questions of memory and truth and their stranglehold on us all. All questions that another film on my list also asks and does a better job of answering (along with being Gondry's most poignant work to date, a technical marvel, and Charlie Kaufman's most emotionally accessible screenplay to date), hence its position at number one.
Peter Jackson's work on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is self-explanatory. As should be Mike Nichol's emotionally raw film Closer. Jean-Pierre Jeunet is one of my favorite directors, and it was either A Very Long Engagement or Amelie in this decade. Ultimately, A Very Long Engagement made it to number five due to Jeunet's more mature, measured style, Bruno Delbonnel's always-gorgeous cinematography, and the simply resplendent love story. Then there's The Fountain, a film that I return to often, always with bleary eyes, and Gladiator, self-explanatory in its epic scope and Ridley Scott's mastery of the genre. Joe Wright's Atonement is there due to its outstanding direction, its screenplay's story structure, and Dario Marianelli's haunting, novel score.
Which brings me to The Dark Knight. It's effect on the booming sub-genre of superhero adaptations is undeniable. And aside from its importance to the films to which it's a predecessor, Christopher Nolan simply delivered an awesome film. Every piece of The Dark Knight works in harmony, from the score to the performances (Heath Ledger's finest), to the use of mainly practical effects. Its effects will be felt into the next decade.
Make no mistake, this was not an easy task. Whittling my short list of about 50 films (which had already been whittled down from a list of about 100) to the 10 you see above was rough. A lot of great films, deserving films, just missed the cut. Having said that, I've included ten honorable mentions, ten films that are deserving of a mention (as seen above). The one I'd especially like to highlight is Avatar. In my opinion, this is the one film that will be looked back upon as a defining moment of the aughts, though, since it came so late, its affect can't be fully measured for some time. It's not revolutionary yet, but it will most likely prove to be. The rest of the list in no particular order, but the two that found their way in and out of my Top 10 more than once are listed first. And with that, it's your turn. Tell me how wrong I am. I can't wait to see all of your favorite films of this past decade. But if there's one thing on which we can all agree, I hope, it's that the aughts have been a great ten years of film. Here's to ten more.
As the decade comes to a close, every film critic who takes their profession seriously is looking back at the last ten years and figuring out which movies stood out in their minds and why. If you're anything like me, this task would be torture since choosing ten films out of the thousands I've enjoyed feels like a cruel joke.
But here we are at the end of 2009 and here is my list of ten movies that moved me more than anything in the ‘00's. There were smaller films I wish I could include like You Can Count on Me, Quills, Baadasssss!, City of God, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Raising Victor Vargas and Shattered Glass. These were the indie gems that took me for a ride and left an indelible impression. Bigger films like Hero, About A Boy, Sideways, State and Main, Inglourious Basterds, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Children of Men and In Bruges also threatened to make their mark on my top ten list. All of them are exceptional movies but only serve as an appetizer for the top ten films I loved this decade. So without any further teasing, here is my list.
1. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
2. Amores Perros (2000)
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
4. Little Children (2006)
5. No Country for Old Men (2007)
6. Traffic (2000)
7. The Contender (2000)
8. 25th Hour (2002)
9. The Weather Man (2005)
10. The Departed (2006)
The titles on this list range from small nuanced work like The Weather Man, 25th Hour and Little Children to flashy spectacles like The Departed, Traffic and No Country for Old Men. There are two Best Picture winners on my list proving the Academy isn't completely out of touch and there is even the best modern love story of the last several years with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Other current love fables like Before Sunset and Sidewalks of New York could also be seen as front-runners but the gut-wrenching honesty of Eternal Sunshine is what secures its spot on my list.
The two most underrated movies on this list are both independent titles. The political drama The Contender was written and directed by former film critic Rod Lurie and Amores Perros is the ferocious directorial debut of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu who later went on to direct 21 Grams and Babel. Saving the best for last is Kill Bill Vol. 2, a controversial choice for some but time will treat this film well. Quentin Tarantino has always flirted with making a western and this is the closest he's gotten so far. For those who may be curious, Kill Bill Vol. 1 is an entertaining film with pieces of brilliance but Vol. 2 is a completely different animal. It's light on action but heavy on emotional impact. The dialogue (especially in the last third) in Kill Bill Vol. 2 is among the best Tarantino has written and will continue to define the director's unique style well into the new decade.
Deciding the best of the year is always difficult, let alone the best of any given decade. This decade was no exception as I found myself narrowing down a from a large list of favorites from the past ten years. However, it was sad to see how few films in consideration for my personal best of the decade were from the past few years (you'll notice that not one film from 2007 or 2008 made the cut). Just goes to show how quality films are becoming more and more difficult to come by in this remake, adaptation, and sequel ridden industry.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
2. Almost Famous (2000)
3. Children of Men (2006)
4. The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
5. Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
6. District 9 (2009)
7. Lost in Translation (2003)
8. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
9. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
10. Garden State (2004)
Honorable Mentions: Pan's Labyrinth, Minority Report, Once, Stranger Than Fiction, Charlie Wilson's War, The Mist, Gladiator, No Country for Old Men, 40 Year-Old Virgin, Shaun of the Dead, Best in Show.
For me, the most powerful, captivating, and wholly remarkable stories were original scripts not adapted from another medium. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was certainly a unique take on the idea of seemingly star-crossed lovers, albeit dysfunctional ones, as Joel and Clementine move in and out of Joel's memories, attempting to salvage the lives and love they once shared. On a more grim and depressing end of the spectrum, in Children of Men, Clive Owen attempts to salvage humanity's hope for survival in an unborn child somehow conceived in the midst of a reproductive drought that has hit humankind in a gritty future. Aside from a compelling story, mind-blowing single-shot long takes weave us seamlessly through this bleak world as if we're right there in the thick of the chaos. And as someone who truly has a bad taste in his mouth when Clive Owen is on-screen, my loving this film says a lot for its quality and caliber.
Meanwhile, two vastly different films focusing on real-life events have impacted my senses on several levels. First, Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous recounts the days young William Miller spent with the band Stillwater, and surprisingly the story isn't that fantastical or unrealistic as Crowe himself followed a similar path in rock journalism as he found himself touring with Black Sabbath. Not only did the film draw me further into my obsession with cinema, but it also created a strong taste and love for classic rock as the soundtrack is riddled with the majestic sounds of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and of course Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" in what I consider to be one of the best scenes ever put on celluloid. On a less upbeat note lies a story of fear-mongering and sad history as Good Night, and Good Luck highlights the on-air battle legendary television broadcaster shared with the now infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy. Not only did the film hold social and political relevance in a blind patriotism charged United States, but it also warns of the potential to repeat a sad time in history where fear was our shepherd.
On the same foundation of cultural relevance, albeit in a fictional setting, District 9 was an honest look into the potential future of how our misunderstandings lead to fear-driven hate and malice. A film that not only calls attention to the atrocities of prejudice today, but of history past; a history that from which we have apparently learned no lessons. But of course not all is this bleak, depressing and altogether critical of the human race. There's also affection to be found as love and friendship blossoms in the most unlikely of pairs. A milquetoast business owner finds the courage to proclaim his love in the face of adversity of his cruel and twisted sisters in Punch-Drunk Love. Two complete strangers find solace in each other as they find themselves meandering around Japan in Lost in Translation. And a struggling actor comes to find love in the hometown with which he no longer feels connected. All these stories are touching, hopeful and uplifting.
And then of course, there's the two adaptations that made my list. First, within The Lord of the Rings lies a definitive and impressive achievement in cinema both as an adaptation of a classic and internationally loved piece of literature, and as a testament to the awe-inspiring filmmaking techniques that helped bring such iconic characters to life. To separate these films on a Best of the Decade or any list would be a tragedy as they all feed off another and are only strengthened by the themes, subtexts and metaphors that run through all three installments of this epic tale. On a non-fiction note, Catch Me If You Can is a fantastically woven tale that is both unbelievable and tragic. Based on an autobiography of sorts by the real Frank Abagnale, Jr. the film is evidence that Steven Spielberg is still one of the freshest filmmakers working today. While the actions of Abagnale are remarkable in themselves, even more remarkable are the lengths to which he is willing to go just to hold on to the potential of being reunited with his once ideal family.
And so there you have it. This decade was exciting and progressive for the film industry, and I cannot wait to see what's in store for the next ten years. A resurgence of original stories would be a nice change of pace from the past few years, but alas, only time will tell. What are your Best Movies of the Decade?