Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Top 100 of the 2000s

In list form, sans descriptions:

Top 20:

Adaptation (2002)

Almost Famous (2000)

American Psycho (2000)

Angels in America (2003)

The Assassination of Jesse James (2007)

Bright Star (2009)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Children of Men (2006)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

The Fall (2008)

Gosford Park (2001)

The Hurt Locker (2009)

In the Bedroom (2001)

LotR (2001, 2002, 2003)

Moulin Rouge (2001)

The New World (2005)

Pan’s Labyrinth (2007)

V for Vendetta (2005)

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2007)

Zodiac (2007)


Atonement (2007)

Chicago (2002)

The Constant Gardener (2005)

Departed (2006)

The Escapist (2008)

Frost/Nixon (2008)

Good Night and Good Luck (2005)

Hard Candy (2006)

The Hours (2002)

In Bruges (2008)

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Last King of Scotland (2006)

Memento (2001)

Milk (2008)

Moon (2009)

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Painted Veil (2006)

Persepolis (2007)

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

The Triplets of Belleville (2003)


28 Days Later (2003)

Best in Show (2000)

The Bourne Identity (2002)
Brothers (2009)

The Brothers Bloom (2009)
Casino Royale (2006)
District 9 (2009)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Finding Nemo (2003)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Let the Right One In (2008)
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
The Magdalene Sisters (2003)
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
The Royal Tennenbaums (2001)
Secretary (2002)
Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Watchmen (2009)


Across the Universe (2007)
Batman Begins (2005)

Brick (2006)
The Damned United (2009)

Gone Baby Gone (2007)
I heart Huckabees (2004)
In the Loop (2009)

King Kong (2005)
Lost in Translation (2003)
Mirrormask (2005)
The Prestige (2006)
Rescue Dawn (2007)
Shattered Glass (2003)
Snow Angels (2008)
Sunshine (2007)
Sweeney Todd (2007)
Thirteen (2003)
Whale Rider (2003)
Winged Migration (2003)

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2002)

80- 100:

A Mighty Heart (2007)
Catch Me if You Can (2002)
Cloverfield (2008)
The Fountain (2006)
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
Howl’s Moving Castle (2005)
I'm Not There (2007)
Inside Man (2006)
Japanese Story (2003)
Kingdom of Heaven (2006)
Kinsey (2004)
Marie Antoinette (2006)
Monster (2003)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Perfume: the story of a murderer (2006)
The Queen (2006)
Stardust (2007)
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
X2 (2003)
Young Adam (2003)

Honorable mentions:

Wristcutters: A Love Story
Igby Goes Down
Kiss kiss bang bang
The Lookout
Sin City
Kill Bill
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India

Saw too late to make the list, but otherwise would be on there:

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
A Single Man
Fish Tank

The Top 100 - part 6

Top Tier – the Classics
Adaptation (2002) What might have originally been a movie about The Orchid Thief becomes a meditation on adaptation, screenwriting and movies. Hilarious, touching, and thought-provoking.

Almost Famous (2000) One of the most heart-felt coming-of-age stories ever committed to celluloid – in part because it was loosely based on Cameron Crowe’s own experiences. It also captures the fervor and spirit of rock disciples. Ah, to be kidnapped by rock stars.

American Psycho (2000) A tour-de-force performance film. It is darkly hysterical and its take on vacuous consumerism is brilliant. The glossy sheen of the art direction keeps perfectly with the movies themes.

Angels in America (2003) Ok - it's not technically a movie, but it's too brilliant to leave off. One of the finest pieces of art ever made (as a book, play, or miniseries).

Assassination of Jesse James (2007) Stunning cinematography, and a mournful, wistful take on the Western genre. One of the best acting ensembles of the decade.

Bright Star (2009) Jane Campion returns to film with this gorgeous, lush presentation of the love story between Fanny Brawne and her neighbor John Keats, who died at the age of 25. Moody and dreamy, it unfolds like a Keats poem.

Brokeback Mountain (2005) Such an incredibly beautiful film, from the story and writing to the cinematography. There are lots of stories of love conquering all, but few as poignant and truthful of love surpassing all else.

Children of Men (2006) An amazing picture of a dystopian future, where humans have stopped being able to reproduce. Fantastic performances, a remarkable eye for detail, and some of the most astounding camera work around form one of the most overlooked films of the decade.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Charlie Kaufman, the most brilliant screenwriter around, tops himself in an incredibly crazy, poignant take on relationships.

The Fall (2008) The most beautiful film of the decade. Hands down. It was filmed in 28 countries over 4 years and contains no computer imagery, even though that’s hard to believe on a first viewing. An injured stunt man tells stories to a little girl in a hospital and we follow her imagination.

Gosford Park (2001) My favorite Altman. A spin on upstairs/downstairs and the weekend party murder mystery, featuring a stunning assemblage of actors.

Hurt Locker (2009) The best word I can think of to describe this film is immersive. Tense, surprisingly funny, with incredible acting from every person who shows up on screen (hey, was that Guy Pearce? And Ralph Fiennes? And Evangeline Lily?) At heart though, it is an incredible portrait of a soldier who thrives in the dangers of war. Completely brilliant.

In the Bedroom (2001) God, I love this movie. I remember when it was the tiny film that somehow was included in the Best Picture race alongside behemoths like Fellowship of the Ring and Moulin Rouge. At the time, I had zero idea what it was about, although I guessed there was some marital tension between Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek, given the fact that she broke a plate in the ads. I know now that this had to be one of the hardest films ever to market (and not because it wasn’t completely radiant and with marvelous acting from a remarkable cast). Rather, it’s impossible to describe the plot without spoiling the film for new viewers. Suffice to say, the acting is first rate. Go see it based on that knowledge alone.

Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003) What? They’re basically one big film… A story this epic couldn’t be told in less than six hours. Every detail of each of these films was perfectly realized. Never has another world been so wholly created.

Moulin Rouge (2001) Heart-breaking, lush, and with dazzling visuals, Baz Luhrmann updates musicals. The frenetic editing and eye-popping visuals fuse with an aching story of forbidden love for one of the great modern romances.

The New World (2005) A dreamy, impressionistic take on the colonization of America. To me, this movie captures visually one of my favorite pieces of writing ever, from the final pages of the Great Gatsby; “gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”

Pan’s Labyrinth (2007) A young girl escapes the brutality of the Spanish civil war in a fantasy quest. The makeup and effects are terrific, and the story heart-wrenching.

V for Vendetta (2005) As my mother put it, you can’t watch this film and not want to jump up and storm the Bastille afterwards. One of the best graphic novel adaptations ever done, the film drew upon the political paranoia of the Bush years and channeled it into a rousing action film with tremendous performances all around.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2007) A deserving Palme D’Or winner, it paints a devastating portrait of the moral ambiguity of war – in this case, the war of Irish Independence. Brilliant through and through.

Zodiac (2007) Never has a police procedural felt so real. The movie works through the dead-end leads, the slog of phone tips, and the obsession of the trackers and never once loses the urgency of tracking down one of the most notorious serial killers of all time.

(Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. A full list - sans descriptions - coming next)

The Top 100 - part 5

(Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4)

Second Tier – the “Oh my god that was good” group

Atonement (2007) What starts out as a beautiful period romance - and, really, that would have been enough to get it on this list; it's incredibly fabulous just as a period romance - becomes a meditation on narrative, jealousy and, obviously, atonement. And yes, the camera work in the scene at Dunkirk is some of the best that has ever been done.

Chicago (2002) If you can ignore Renee Zellwegger's collar bones, everything else about this musical is sheer perfection. It's jazzy and glossy and infectious, and the splits to the musical numbers are ingenious.

The Constant Gardener (2005) A political and ideological thriller, which sets a British government worker on the path to understand his wife’s murder at any cost.

The Departed (2006) Scorsese takes the undercover cop thriller to epic, Shakespearean levels. Packed with brilliant performances.

Escapist (2008) It has never been released in the U.S. [Ed: now on region 1 DVD], but it is hands down my favorite film I’ve seen this year. It’s a prison break film, shot in Kilmainham gaol in Dublin. It stars Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Dominic Cooper, Seu Jorge, Liam Cunningham, and Damian Lewis. Can we pause for a moment and appreciate that cast? It’s wildly original and Brian Cox gives an astounding career-high performance.

Frost/Nixon (2008) Chronicling a pivotal moment in American politics, Frank Langella and Michael Sheen deliver powerhouse performances as the titular figures. Backed up by a fantastic supporting cast, the film becomes a fantastic mental thriller, despite already knowing the outcome.

Good Night and Good Luck (2005)
The complement to Frost/Nixon for crusading journalists taking on politicians. Good Night and Good Luck has a jazzier, more retro feel and an equally strong cast. The cool vibe manages to soften the civics lesson and the realization of the harsh disconnect between journalism then and news today.

Hard Candy (2006)What starts out as a middle-aged man picking up a teen at a coffee shop quickly becomes something else entirely. A twisty and provocative thriller that could easily have turned into pulpy exploitation were it not for the fantastic turns by Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson, who anchor the film with their struggle.

The Hours (2002) My go-to example of when the movie is better than the book, and the book won the Pulitzer. Where Mrs. Dalloway chronicles it’s heroine’s life through the course of one day, the Hours examines three. Powerhouse acting all around, topped by Nicole Kidman who deservedly won the Oscar – her scenes with Stephen Dillane, who plays Leonard Woolfe are riveting.

In Bruges (2008) My favorite playwright’s first film. Martin McDonough writes pitch-black humor, and In Bruges is no exception. And in between the whip-smart dialogue and madcap shoot-outs are some fantastic character portraits.

Inglourious Basterds (2009) Each of the chapters could be an award-winning short film. So many films today take quick edits to the extreme of also having quick scenes. While Tarantino doesn’t employ particularly long takes, he does allow long scenes to play out, slowly building the tension of each interrogation. Yes, it is also a satisfying revenge fantasy and an ode to the power of cinema, but it is the drama of these small contests of will that remain freshest months later.

Last King of
Scotland (2006) Forrest Whitaker gives one of the best performances of the decade as the charismatic, brutal dictator Idi Amin. James McAvoy is fantastic, too, as a young Scottish doctor who is at first charmed by Amin before recognizing what is going on around him.

Memento (2001) Ingeniously plays with narrative structure, and still manages to be an engrossing mystery.

Milk (2008) I could not believe that Sean Penn pulled this off. Mr. Dour morphs completely into the sunny, outgoing personality of Harvey Milk. Great supporting work as well. A stirring overview of the gay rights struggle.

Moon (2009) I love, love, love this film. It’s best to go into this film knowing little of the plot. Basically, it concerns astronaut Sam Bell, who has 2 weeks to go on his 3-year solitary mining shift on the moon. It has the year’s most incredible performance by Sam Rockwell, who is pretty much the only one on screen (Kevin Spacey voices the computer on the moon station).
No Country for Old Men (2007) A tale of fate in west Texas. Nihilistic, dark, and violent, but also stunning.

Painted Veil (2006) A desperately unhappy couple undertake a suicidal trip to the middle of a cholera epidemic in a remote region of China and, in doing so, discover reasons to live. It sounds cliché, but Edward Norton and Naomi Watts are mesmerizing and perform their character arcs with nary a false note.

Persepolis (2007) Marjane Satrapi animates her autobiographical graphic novel. Tells both the story of the Iranian revolution and the coming–of-age of its heroine.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) Yes, audiences swelled to this feel-good story of underdog triumph in part because it was released during a depression. But it is still a fantastic love story, a wonderful portrait of India, and sometimes one does actually want a happy ending. With a bollywood dance.

Triplets Belleville (2003) Such an odd little film. Almost a throwback to the days of Silly Symphonies and Betty Boop, it's a near silent romp through eccentric French oddballs and the Tour de France.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Top 100 - part 4

(Parts 1, 2, and 3)

Third Tier – the best of the genres

28 Days Later (2003) The only time I've ever been genuinely scared by a trailer. It seems like such a simple concept in hindsight; turn zombies from slow, drooling idiots into "caffeinated jackals" (as one reviewer put it). That, combined with the surreal shots of an empty London at the beginning, make it one of the most memorable horror films I've ever seen.

Best in Show (2000) "Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?"

Bourne Identity (2002) A lot of people prefer Paul Greengrass' take on Bourne, but I like the original. Partly because I love Franka Potente in it, partly because the plot feels more accessible, and partly because the shaky-cam action sequences in the later films become really hard to follow. This one, I think, has the best action and is the best thriller of the three.

Brothers (2009) I’m not sure why critics are divided on this one. I think it’s an incredibly well acted character piece that examines the affects of war at home. Tobey Maguire may be getting a few accolades due to the showier role (and Leo’s campaigning), but Jake Gyllenhaal has a more impressive character arc as the black sheep in a military family.

Brothers Bloom (2009) This one got lost in the shuffle, which was such a shame. A globe-trotting, one-last-con flick, featuring a pair of con men brothers (Adrian Brody and Mark Ruffalo), a longing-for-adventure heiress (Rachel Weisz), and an explosives expert (Rinko Kikuchi). Rachel Weisz and Rinko Kikuchi would both be up for Oscars, were there any justice in the world.

Casino Royale (2006) I still wish that Daniel Craig would have just DYED HIS HAIR, but otherwise, he works very well as Bond, and the film works well for rebooting the series. Vesper Lynd is easily the best Bond girl there has ever been and the starting parkour sequence in Madagascar is awesome.

District 9 (2009) A cheeky political commentary on marginalized peoples (or aliens) that turns into an amazing action piece. Wildly ambitious, a sci-fi epic shot on an (unnoticeable) shoestring budget, a drama crossed with a stylized thriller, it is impressively original.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) Wes Anderson stylization comes to animation, which recalls Wallace and Gromit crossed with Gumby. The story, based on a Roald Dahl tale, follows a fox family and their woodland neighbors as they fight off the local farmers. A whimsical action caper that is completely endearing.

Finding Nemo (2003) My favorite Pixar hands down. There's a good mix of emotional depth and fun, and the animation of the underwater scenes is stunning.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) Post-punk, neo-glam gender bending rock stars unite! Seriously: this movie has touching characters, fantastic music, the flashiest costumes since Priscilla, and a bouncing-ball-audience-sing-along section; how can you not love it?

Lars and the Real Girl (2007) An introvert, brilliantly played by Ryan Gosling, slowly engages the real world through his (very chaste and very respectful) relationship with a sex doll. A fantastic supporting cast all around creates a wonderful, human community dealing with and supporting one of its more eccentric members.

Let the Right One In (2008) I remember reading once that Bjork tries to express Iceland through her music. In the same way, I feel that Let the Right One In expresses Sweden with it's expressive, snowy cinematography and suburban isolation. It's a tiny bit slow to start, but it sets up the loneliness of the protagonist, an outcast boy just on the verge of becoming a teenager, who then gets a new neighbor, Eli. Eli is a 12-year old vampire, and from there the movie takes off, creating a blossoming young friendship and twisting vampire lore into something wholly new and riveting.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006) A portrait of a flawed family, where each individual can't quite get it together, but as a whole unit they muddle through. Cynical enough that it never quite veers into preciousness, it remains one of the better ensemble comedies around.

Magdalene Sisters (2003) Based on the horrifying true story of the Magdalene laundries, where girls were sent to do hard labor for getting pregnant, being raped, or being deemed 'too flirtatious'. The film is harrowing and eloquent, and the acting is terrific all around.

Motorcycle Diaries (2004) A travelogue that observes the budding formation of Che Guevara and his best friend. Idealistic, beautiful and adventurous, just like the journey itself.

Pride and Prejudice (2005) I am not a huge Jane Austen fan, but this version is fresh enough that I found it really enjoyable and engaging. Confident and witty, Kiera Knightly makes Elizabeth much more accessible as a modern heroine.

The Royal Tennenbaums (2001) I know - two Wes Anderson films in a group. What can I say? His quirk appeals to me. Stylistically perfect, amusingly depressing and sadly funny, the oddball family has never been more entertainingly depicted.

Secretary (2002) Maggie Gyllenhaal gives the performance of her career as a self-harmer who finds love and self-acceptance through an S&M relationship. Very original and endearing and well worth checking out.

Waltz with Bashir (2008) The only animated documentary I know of, the film examines the 1982 Israeli-Lebanese war through one veteran trying to remember what happened.It examines memory, culpability, and the emotional wounds soldiers carry long after fighting has finished.

Watchmen (2009) Step off, haters. I think in time this will be recognized for how brilliant it is. No – it isn’t perfect, but it encompasses the sprawling complexity of the original novel while capturing the gritty feel perfectly. “Superheroes” debating morality doesn’t have the black and white simplicity of your Spider-Man 2, but it leaves far more to contemplate and discuss long after the movie has finished. Also has one of the year’s best performances in Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

No really, I want Robin Hood to fail

The first reviews on Robin Hood are coming out, including; it "often seems devoted to stifling whatever pleasure audiences may have derived from the popular legend." Could you not tell from the trailer?!?

I love this one; "a structural mess with a convoluted narrative, dubious romance, awkward stabs at comic relief and hackneyed tropes of the genre. Perhaps most unforgivable in a film aiming to be an entertainment: it bores to tears."

A list of past Robins with video clips

And more on the history of the character

Friday, May 7, 2010

Long time no blog

Lots of catching up on life and personal work. Nothing much movie related at the moment, although I am seeing Iron Man 2 tomorrow, and hopefully Hausu on Sunday. We'll see if everything else gets done.

I am, however, 40th in my box office game (out of 3,216 players) and I'm entering a summer-wide contest for the top 5 earners this year. Here are my picks (May 7th - Labor Day):
1. Iron Man 2 - $370 million
2. Toy Story 3 - $359 million
3. Twilight: Eclipse - $316 million
4. Shrek 4 - $292 million
5. Inception - $243 million

So now I can check back in 4 months and see if I was remotely accurate. (I'm hoping for Robin Hood to be the big flop of the summer. Mwa ha ha.)

Also, Mick LaSalle has a particularly great column out today. (I tend to hate his reviews, but I love his column).

In other, non-movie news, I finished Being Human season 2, which I dragged out for as long as possible. *sigh* Only 8 episodes! And not another new one for like 8 months. Argh. I need a True Blood fix to help get me through.