Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Best Films of the Double-Os

I love writing about movies. Making movie lists, on the other hand, well - that's more tough love.

I know people are into lists. As old hat as they've gotten, and as much as people say they're bored with them they always spark discussion , which is one of my favorite things about the blogosphere. So when the end of the decade finally comes to pass, a list must issue forth.

Actually, picking out the films is never that hard. Ranking them, however, is another matter.  That involves numbers, and I hate numbers. So this post is NOT a ranking of the 10 best films of the decade. I have a hard enough time ranking the 10 best films of any one year, thank you very much.

So I decided to be a little more democratic in my approach. I went back to each of my 10 Best Lists for the decade, and picked the top three films from each year. Therefore,  what follows are chronological lists of the number 1's 2's and 3's of each year. There are some surprising omissions and inclusions. There are films I liked better than I remembered, and films that have faded just a little in my heart, but I wasn't interested in revisionist history. My rankings reflect how I felt and who I was at that point in time, and I'm not about to change them. Besides, that would mean futzing with numbers again.

So that established here are 27 movies that make for very fine viewing and reviewing. Please note that since I live in a smaller market, I count film years differntly than most critics. So for instance,  what may have been a 1999 film for some was really a 2000 film for me - like, say, the very first film in the list.


Magnolia - The best Robert Altman film Robert Altman never made. Plus frogs.

A.I. - This may be the single most misunderstood film of the entire decade. And it doesn't always work. But even the ways it fails are mesmerizing, as only a hybrid of Spielberg and Kurbrick sensibilities could be.

Far From Heaven - Todd Haynes' 50s film with a twist features one of the two greatest female performances of the decade. Julianne Moore was robbed of the Oscar.

Lord of the Rings - Like everyone else, I cheat and count all three as one, although on balance, Return of the King is the best.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - And Kate Winslet gave the other great female performance of the decade in this brilliantly inventive. fractured romance.

Munich  - Still the best statement on terrorism, post 9-11.

United 93 - Oddly enough I felt elated after this film, because I was so moved at witnessing how heroism rose from the most terrifying of circumstances.

Once - You will notice I have a thing for movies about the rush of a romance that can't last. This one made me swoon more than any other.

WALL-E - And this film made me feel more pure joy than any other. After seeing it, I immediately phoned three friends to rave about it, and then practically flew home from Newport to Dayton. Pixar's crowning achievement.


Almost Famous - Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes indeed.

Memento - .mind my blew Nolan Christopher time first the was It.

Minority Report - Contains the best chase sequence of the decade, with seer Samantha Morton forecasting the pursuit of her and Tom Cruise. Brilliantly staged. And the rest of the film made my mind reel too.

Mystic River - Like Magnolia, this film says that we may be through the past, but the past isn't through with us. And it's shattering in the process.

Before Sunset - Hey look, another romance. Only this one is a touch happier!

King Kong - Yes, it's a little too long. But when it works, it dazzles. And it dazzles often.

The Departed - I'm not sure any film I've seen prompted more vocal and visceral reactions from its audiences. Plus, Marty has to be on any list of mind somewhere.

Pan's Labyrinth - Rarely has fantasy been so threatening and frightening as in Guillermo Del Toro's visualization of a young girl's very vivid imagination.

Slumdog Millionaire - I've heard from some people who don't understand why this film is called "feel good" when the lead goes through such trials. It's because without darkness, there can be no light.


Cast Away  - It made me cry over a volleyball, dammit.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Rarely have I seen romance visualized in such a kinetic way, but Ang Lee did it.

Spirited Away - The best hand-drawn film of the decade that cast the craft adrift. This film was the best demonstration of why it should stay.

Lost in Translation - Well, what do you know, another poignant romance. Hmm. That was said in a whisper, by the way.

The Incredibles - Forget all those guys in real tights. This was the superhero film of the decade. Yes, even over The Dark Knight.

Million Dollar Baby - When that moment happened - if you've seen it, you know what I mean - the air absolutely went out of the room in that packed theater. I'll never forget that.

World Trade Center - The trailer for this movie looked awful, it was so cloying. And yet, Oliver Stone delivered by evoking the emotions of that day so well, though outstanding performances and a masterful sense of tone and place.

No Country for Old Men - One of the most frightening depictions of evil on screen, not just of this decade, but of all time. And it ranks all the way down here.

There Will be Blood - And this contains the greatest performance of the decade by any actor. I'm finished.

Well, actually, no, I'm not quite finished. You may wonder why there are 27 films in the list and not 30. That's because I'm still working on my 10 Best List for this year. I'm pretty sure I have the top three picked out, but I want to maintain some degree of suspense, so I will present those very shortly after the new year, and I'll show you my 10 best from each year in  a future post too.

In the meantime, feel free to ring out the old year (or ring in the new one) discussing  my picks. What are yours? What did I omit? Or foolishly include?


Kim said...

Yikes - this highlights for me how many movies I still need to see!!! I am so far behind on films. I need to take 2 weeks off work and watch dozens of movies - wouldn't that be fun?? Maybe that is what my daughter and I will do once she has her lung transplant - we will have lots of recuperation time to fill. I'm with you, lists overwhelm me. And as a Libra - I couldn't possibly even begin! Though I have to say - being a die-hard Potter fan - that is a decade topper for me and I count all of those movies as one too. :) Loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy - I remember I did take one whole Sunday and watched all 3 movies back to back - almost 9 hours worth. It was great!

I saw "It's Complicated" last night - LOVED it! I don't remember when I have laughed so hard in a movie. :)

Scott Copeland said...

One film I would have to add to this list is Moulin Rouge. For someone who celebrates romance on his list, I have to celebrate it a bit more and add this to a list. Plus, I loved the music.

Also, given who our favorite dirctors are, I can't help but note that my guy got mentioned three times on your list, and your guy only once. Maybe Spielberg really is that good.

Sir Critic said...

"Moulin Rouge" JUST missed the mention, but I had to rate CTHD just a little higher. As for Steve n' Marty, it's worth noting that Steve on the whole tends to be a bit more prolific. He made two films in a year twice last decade, Marty has not done that. ;)