Best of the ’00s in film

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a friend to submit my top five films of the decade for his website, CruJonesSociety.

It did not go well.

I spent hours combing over previous reviews, shuffling through my end-of-the-year lists, striking some titled, adding others, all in the name of trying to fill only five slots. I was forced to make some Sophie’s Choice-like decisions and leave many a beloved title behind. Thankfully, I am able to ruminate and lengthen the list of films for the sake of this column. I have narrowed it to ten, which is not that much better, but the math seems to work out in my head (ten is a decade, right?).

Here’s the rundown of more mainstream fare that meant the most to me over the decade (now this may change, as the much-hyped “Avatar” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel” have yet to be released), in no particular order. These are the ones I return to frequently for cinematic comfort food, and are not all necessarily what I would consider “the best,” but rather the more important titles for reasons I hope to make clear.

 

The Dark Knight (2008): This should really come as no surprise to readers of my column. But strip away the costumes, the budget, the whole Heath Ledger brou-ha-ha, and you have at its core a story that boils down the essence of what is good and evil. It is a film that delivers grandiosity not with its effects, but more with its words, and it thrives in those gray ethical areas that are often debated but seldom solved. Plus, I want that Bat Cycle.

 

Up (2009): I’ll be honest, this one was the most difficult, as I could have populated this entire list with Pixar pics. And perhaps it is because this was the one I most recently viewed on the big screen (though I still return with frequency to “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles” and “Wall*E”), but I cannot shake the emotions that overwhelm me while experiencing this film. What starts with a note-perfect montage of the value of a partner in life, continues with some of the decades’ most atypical heroes and an ode to friendship that is as true and tender as any witnessed with flesh-and-blood actors.

 

Memento (2000): A double-dip for director Christopher Nolan (who also directed Dark Knight), who bookends the aughts with this chronological mind-bender that begs for multiple spins on the DVD plate. It’s a rightful heir to the film noir throne even if it was laid out in linear fashion, but the fact that it hiccups through time makes it as fun to watch from any direction.

Borat (2007):Comedy is a difficult genre to brand “the best” due to its subjective nature, but Sacha Baron Cohen’s without-a-net antics are edgy, intelligent, dangerous, and so sadly needed in this world. His humor may not always hit the target (as evidenced with the strained Bruno), but it’s necessary. In a time when comedy is neutered to suit the needs of focus-group-friendly chuckles, Cohen could not be more valuable.

 

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006): Have you ever really read old “children’s fables?” There are some rather twisted shit spun for the youngsters. Google these from the Brothers Grimm: “The Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear,” “The Juniper Tree,” or “All-Kinds-of-Fur.” Rape, incest, murder and infanticide were apparently all the rage to help children drift off into a blissful slumber back in the day. By comparison, Pan’s must look rather quaint, but it is still on the darker side of Disney offerings. Lush and languid, Pan’s is a beauty to behold, set against a very real depiction of war and its atrocities.

 

I Heart Huckabees (2004): An existential comedy that rewards with repeated viewings. If you have a difficult time thinking you’d never see “Nietzsche” and “funny” in the same sentence, then it is worth the time to seek this one out. It’s heavy themes are buoyed by a tremendous cast: Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Mark Wahlberg, Jude Law, Naomi Campbell and Jason Schwartzman have a blast as they dig into the meaning of just who and why we are.

 

Grindhouse (2007): This one lands on the list not necessarily for its films, but for the “experience.” Quentin Tarantino has already established himself as a lover of movies, but here he demonstrated his love as a movie “goer.” The three-hour, two film cinematic package (including inspired fake trailers) deftly recreates the drive-in days of exploitation flicks in all their scratchy, raunchy glory. Tarantino also manages to subvert the genre with his contribution “Death Proof,” which in both an ode to gang films of the past, but also making it completely unique in its vision.

 

Children of Men (2006): For those who love the language of film, this is a master’s class in editing and cinematography. Set in a not-too-distant future when mankind is no longer capable of procreating and society has all but given up hope, director Alfonso Cuaron’s technically brilliant parable could be all doom and gloom as we follow Clive Owen and a gang of rebels through war-ravaged streets. But Emmanuel Lubezki’s lens somehow makes steel gray vibrant and gives us a front-line view of their travails.

 

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004): A mobius strip of a romance that remains not only Jim Carrey’s finest performance to date, but at its core a thoughtful, honest portrayal of romance and the struggle it takes to hold on to the passion of the courtship dance. Rare is it that a film can make you change your opinion about its characters so often, but as we watch things progress, we begin to understand character’s motivations that cause us to rethink our initial judgments. It may be writer Charlie Kaufman’s most accessible script to date, and framed with flourish from director Michael Gondry

 

Bowling for Columbine (2002): A slew of documentaries could have easily made their way onto the list (“Grizzly Man,” “Capturing the Friedmans”). This one was selected in particular because it was one of the first to break into the mainstream acceptance and become more than art-house fodder that they are were so often relegated to prior to its release. In addition, it was a debate-inducing spark that led many to carry out thoughtful discussions after the end credits.

~ by usesoapfilm on December 9, 2009.

5 Responses to “Best of the ’00s in film”

  1. OMG! I couldn’t agree with you less on some of these! Wall-E instead of Up! Kill Bill instead of Grindhouse. Adaptation instead of Eternal Sunshine (although, isn’t Memento all you really need to cover that whole style/genre?) Did you miss Lord of the Rings? (Also a better “experience” than Grindhouse, esp for aging Star Wars fans). Children of Men, Bowling for Columbine, and Pan’s can stay, though!

  2. I love the snow falling on your blog!

    Not all of these would be on my top 10, but I think they’re well chosen. I would honestly single out the first 10 minutes of Up and put that on my list without the rest of the movie (even though it was funny, it lost me with some of its kid humor. Even though I’m a sucker for dog humor). And I’m glad to see Huckabees on your list. I always second guess myself for loving that film, then I rewatch it and love it even more. It’s Wahlberg at his best!

  3. I knew I could count on you, Shell. 1) Pixar could populate several spots, but I would put Nemo and Incredibles ahead of Wall*E. 2) Loved KB, but I loved the entire “experience” of Grindhouse in the theater, not, as I said, content. It tried to do something unique to today. 3) we shall never see eye to eye on Sunshine. 4) rings was great, but the rewatchability of it is slim. No way was it a better experience. And how many endings did it have? 12? 32? I lost count.

  4. Thanks, Whit. Forgot I had the snow. I’ve talked about Up a lot with a friend on the radio, and I just see this film growing with me. I also think I respect it more for just how ballsy those Pixar guys are in pitching something like this. Also, I forgot I first saw it in 3D, and while it’s even prettier that way, it’s by means a gimmick. Listen to Russell’s commentary on Huckabees, too, if you have not already. It’ll make you love it more.

  5. Solid list there!

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