Monday, December 28, 2009

Nice and Naughties: The Top 10 Films of the Decade

Everyone seems to be doing it. Why can’t I? Let’s face it, lists are fun and they get people talking. It was pretty difficult for me to actually narrow this down to my favorite films of the first ten years of the 2000s. There were some really great films this decade (Into the Wild, yes!) and there were some pretty awful ones (Lady in the Waker, eck!) So without further ado I present my favorite films of the decade.

1-Erin Brockovich (2000)

“Bite my ass, Krispy Kreme!” – Erin Brockovich
No other movie moved me this decade than this brilliant true story of a woman on a mission. A single woman who just wants to provide for her children and yet she stumbles on a horrible environmental cover-up. This woman is Erin Brockovich and it’s a role that the always lovable Julia Roberts was born to play and won a deserving Academy Award. This film is filled to the brim with hilarious dialogue and a moving story of the little man verses the huge corporation. It’s the David vs. Goliath story for the 21st century and is my favorite movie of the decade.

2-Into the Wild (2007)
“If you want something in life, reach out and grab it.” – ‘Alexander Supertramp’
I had written back in 2007 that no other film that year had affected me the way that Into the Wild had. And it’s still true. I can’t really describe what was going through my mind when I finished watching this film for the first time. The story of Christopher McCandless’ transformation in the wandering “Alexander Supertramp” in an attempt to reject society’s silly rules and live amongst Mother Nature was such a brilliant piece of filmmaking from Sean Penn who treated Chris’ story as tragic and yet sympathetic and yet he’s not always the most likable character. Into the Wild is one of the most worthwhile cinematic experiences of my life.

3-Garden State (2004)
“Here comes the lipstick.” – Sam
I never saw Garden State in the theater. When it was released on DVD I took a chance and just bought it. I loved it so much I instantly watched it again. Somehow this movie spoke to me the same way it spoke to a lot of other people my age. It’s sort of this generation’s “The Graduate” as it tells the story of a young guy who doesn’t really know what do to with the rest of his life. As a failing actor living in California Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) is a modern age Ben Braddock who is trying to find a way to fit into the world when he has to return home to New Jersey for his mother’s funeral. Braff who also serves as writer and director displays quite a skill for sharp dialogue and a relatable story which involves a romance with Natalie Portman in one of the actress’ best performances.

4-Minority Report (2003)
“I'm sorry, John, but you're going to have to run again.” – Agatha
Steven Spielberg’s brilliant sci-fi crime story is about a futuristic society that has solved a way to prevent murder. Three “precogs” can see murders before they occur and Chief John Anderton leads a team of officers assigned to capture the criminals before they the strike. The system is “perfect” so to speak, until the system turns on Anderton himself. Tom Cruise gives a great performance as a man on the run and determined to clear his name. Spielberg is in top form (when isn’t he?) and delivers the goods. The effects, the music , the cinematography all conspire to form one of the best and most exciting genre films of the decade.

5-(500) Days of Summer (2009)
“Darling, I don't know how to tell you this, but... there's a Chinese family in our bathroom.” – Tom Hansen
I first saw (500) Days of Summer this past August and since then I’ve probably seen it like eight times. It’s my favorite film of this year and deservedly belongs on the list of the best of the decade. This is the cynical love story of our time. It’s this generation’s “Annie Hall.” Director Marc Webb employs super cool cinematic techniques to tell the not quite meant to be romance between Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) and Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). These two actors have never been better. You fall in love with this movie quicker than Tom falls in love with Summer. It’s funny, it’s sad and it’s a got a quirky soundtrack. Why are you reading this? Go watch this movie now!

6-Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2002)
“Silly Caucasian girl likes to play with Samurai swords.” – O-Ren Ishii
I have no explanation for why I like this movie so much. It doesn’t seem like a film that I should like. Samurai fights? Oh please it’s not my thing, but somehow Quentin Tarantino makes it all digestible. There’s lots of fighting and blood in this movie and it’s completely engrossing. While I enjoy vol. 2, this first chapter remains my favorite Tarantino film simply because it’s his most fast paced. His visual style is completely fascinating (love that tracking shot in the House of Blue Leaves) and he gets some terrific performances from his game cast led by the wonderful Uma Thurman in the role of a lifetime as a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad hell bent on revenge after her team leaves her for dead.

7-In the Bedroom (2001)
“Do you wanna know why our son is dead? Do you really wanna know?” – Matt Fowler
In the Bedroom becomes more and more fascinating as it moves along. You never know where exactly the story is going which is pretty amazing considering there are not many characters. This was Todd Field’s directorial debut. You might remember his appearance in movies like Twister and Eyes Wide Shut and he makes a remarkable directing debut. I love actors who direct because they know how to direct actors. This is an engrossing character study about a family whose tragedy makes them completely unravel and the lengths they go through to overcome their grief. Top notch performances from the always reliable Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek and Marisa Tomei highlight this must see film that was rightly nominated for five Academy Awards.

8-The Diving Bell & the Butterfly (2007)
“Other than my eye, two things aren't paralyzed, my imagination and my memory.” - Jean-Dominique Bauby
I remember seeing the trailers for The Diving Bell & the Butterfly and thinking it looked like some regular artsy foreign film. Yes it is an artsy foreign film, but it is so much more. It is a symphony or sights and sound that all culminate in one of the most emotionally satisfying and moving films of the decade. This is the true story of a man who was paralyzed due to a stroke which leaves him only the ability to blink his left eye. He had to learn how to communicate by blinking his eye. He couldn’t move or talk and yet he was able to write a memoir of his tragic experience. It’s a vastly depressing situation that is made beautifully moving from artist Julian Schnabel’s powerful and utterly original direction and Janusz Kaminksi’s brilliant and haunting cinematography. This is a stunning film you won’t soon forget.

9-Finding Nemo (2003)
“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” – Dory
Finding Nemo is still my all time favorite Pixar film, and maybe that’s just a little predictable since it seems to be a lot of people’s favorite, but I can’t hide my love for this outrageously funny deep sea adventure. Dory (voiced wonderfully by Ellen DeGeneres) the ditzy blue tang with short term memory loss is simply one of the funniest and most lovable animated characters in movie history. How believable is it that a clownfish would be able to find his lost son who was taken from the ocean and placed in a dentist’s fish tank which happens to be filled with a colorful array of silly fish characters? Not really, except that somehow it all works and that breathtaking underwater animation creates an ocean of striking colors that are gourmet food for the eyes. This is a wonderful piece of filmmaking that just happens to be about cartoon fish.

10-Mulholland Dr. (2001)
“It'll be just like in the movies. Pretending to be somebody else.” – Betty Elms
Okay, I’m going to be honest. I have no clue what the heck is going on in this movie. And yet it’s profound and entertaining. Not a second of Mulholland Dr. is ever boring. I mean I get the general gist of what’s going on in David Lynch’s labyrinthine dream-like ode to the dark and crazy world known as Hollywood. Naomi Watts gives one of her best performances as a wide-eyed actress wannabe who movies to LA to pursue acting, but instead gets caught up in a whirlwind of crime and mistaken identities. There’s a moral to the story somewhere in here and while the film seems to not make sense you get the feeling that Lynch knows exactly what he’s doing and you’re sitting there watching an artist at work. This noir thriller is one of the most compelling and strange movies ever to come out of Hollywood.

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