In chronological order.
Here is my top ten:
10. Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN – Beautiful, timeless piece about love, friendship, and growing up. Cuaron reinvented himself by disregarding everything he knew about directing and throwing out all the rules, creating a unique directing style that would become his unequivocal masterpiece.
9. THE PIANO TEACHER – Isabelle Hubbert gives the performance of the decade as the repressed, disaffected spinster in Haneke’s brilliant comment on the bourgeois. Stealing a play from the Lynch playbook, Haneke examines life below the surface of formalities and over-simplifications to reveal depths of the human condition rarely seen on celluloid.
8. SHOTGUN STORIES – No film in recent memory that has come out of American independent cinema has been more of a triumph than Jeff Nichol’s study of poor southern white aggression. Poetic, disturbing, haunting – Michael Shannon gives a tour de force performance in a film that just gets better every time I watch it.
7. FAT GIRL – Arguably the best female-directed film I’ve ever seen, Breillat aims to displease and in Fat Girl creates situations so unsettling yet realistic that it’s difficult to watch but impossible to turn away. Not since A Woman Under the Influence has a film exposed brutal vulnerability in the most honest of ways.
6. RACHEL GETTING MARRIED – This is one of those films that had such a profound impact that as I left the theater, my body was literally shaking. A perfect example of the kind of film that I hope to make, Jonathan Demme proved that realism in cinema was not dead and the evocation of truth in storytelling could be attained. The relationships, the depth of character, and the family dynamics that are on display make this the anti-Hollywood suburban drama.
5. ANTICHRIST – Easily one of the most polarizing films of the decade, Antichrist is a film that delves into the pit of the human soul and explores the essence of grief, pain, and human suffering. What if man was inherently bad? What if nature was intrinsically evil? Sometimes difficult to stomach, this film exemplifies the notion “no pain, no gain” by forcing the viewer to confront the most unimaginable areas of the human condition.
4. CACHE – Never have I been so surprised by thinking a film was going one way only to find it go somewhere else. On the surface a suspenseful thriller, Cache takes an abrupt turn into territory unexpected and by the end you’re left wondering what the hell you had just been put through. Guilt is a universal theme and a subject explored for centuries in art and literature. But Haneke is able to create something new, something astonishing; a story about one man’s internal conflict at external redemption.
3. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – The perfectly crafted film. The Coen brothers already had their masterpiece in the bag with Fargo but then they go and top themselves. I love the mood and pacing of this film that it amazes me they edited it themselves. Like Fargo, there isn’t an ounce of fat that drags the plot; every scene builds and builds to an unlikely (and controversial) climax. While people dismiss this film because it won the Oscar, I think No Country for Old Men was the unabashed masterpiece of 2007, which was one of the best years for cinema in the contemporary age.
2. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE – I felt like sobbing through this whole movie. I didn’t but I felt like it. As an only child for the first ten years of my life, I identified with Max in ways I have never identified with any other character in film. What Spike Jonze was able to capture is nothing short of a miracle; the sense of loneliness, the simultaneous feelings of joy and sorrow. Where the Wild Things Are uses the best that cinema as an art form has to offer and generously gives to the audience something few mediums can: aspiration.
1. ELEPHANT – Unlike other films on this list like Where the Wild Things Are, No Country for Old Men, and Rachel Getting Married, Elephant is a film that took multiple viewings over a number of years before I recognized its brilliance. In hindsight, everything that Gus Van Sant had done prior was in preparation for this film; the perfect blending of a singular vision with artistic storytelling. The approach to the subject matter of a high school massacre using natural light, uninterrupted camera movement, and unpolished performances creates a quiet sensitivity to a horrific event. It is that sense of respect and dignity towards storytelling that lauds this film into the pantheon as one of the greatest works in the history of cinema.Read less