‘K folks, I’m brand new to both the note-writing thing and the list-posting thing, but I figured that based on the amount of thought I’ve put into the subject and my obscene quantity of free time during this break (not a complaint) that it would be appropriate to post my personal list of the ten best films of the ‘00s. Please feel free to post your own opinions on the matter (a.k.a. if I tagged you, I really wanna know what you think), but remember to be play nice and be respectful of everyone else’s opinion.
10. Far from Heaven – What could easily have been an easily-forgotten satire, a worshipful homage, or a shameless Oscar vehicle for it’s stars ended up being an accurate portrayal of the 50s and equally reflective of the ‘00s. It’s also one of the most beautiful dramas to come out of Hollywood in years. Director Todd Haynes revisited and commented upon the melodramas of Douglas Sirk from the 1950s while simultaneously visiting more currently accessible subjects such as homosexuality and interracial romance. The photography is some of the most beautiful around, and provides a similar feel to Mr. Sirk’s technicolor weepies.
9. The Royal Tenenbaums – The bittersweet saga of one of the cinema’s greatest dysfunctional families plays like a two hour New Yorker cartoon. Wes Anderson’s masterpiece is a perfect little film, complete with impeccable performances by all involved, especially Gene Hackman, Angelica Huston, and Luke Wilson; it also has an incredibly quotable script by Anderson and Owen Wilson and an all-too-perfect soundtrack.
8. There Will Be Blood – The weirdest American dream epic ever made. Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic tale begins with Daniel Day Lewis (in a now-legendary performance) swinging a pickax in his near-silent silver mining escapade, and ends with him swinging a bowling pin in the midst of a very different activity. These two scenes bookend the extent of his relationship with his adopted son (and business partner) and a not-so-merciful evangelical preacher (played to screechy perfection by Paul Dano). Notice I said ‘the extent.’ I’m finished.
7. Saraband – Ingmar Bergman is arguably the greatest filmmaker who ever lived. We lost a true genius on the 30 of July, 2007 (which incidentally was my last day as a minor). Two years before his passing, however, he completed this, his final film, on mostly sound stages in his native Sweden. The film is a pseudo-sequel to his ’70s arthouse classic Scenes from a Marriage, but only in the fact that it is a continuation of the characters from the former. The actual focus of the story is on a father and daughter, both cellists, who live together and may or may not be involved in an incestuous relationship. Interestingly, Bergman uses only 5 characters to tell his story; one of these is not even introduced until literally the last minute of the film. Pretty impressive, even for him.
6. No Country for Old Men – There is no experience quite like seeing this movie in a theater. The Coen Brothers’ tense, philosophical thriller had me flinching—not jumping—multiple times. Javier Bardem plays one of the scariest villains in recent history as an unstoppable assassin (sort of) with a hankering for a certain 2 million dollar briefcase, and whoever happens to be holding it. The ending has divided many, but realistically, it does make sense if you think about it….
5. Synecdoche, New York – One of my major complaints of this decade in film is that out of Charlie Kaufman’s handful of great screenplays, the weakest of them got all the critical and commercial glory. Don’t get me wrong: I think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a cute, romantic movie, and I’d gladly recommend it, but the only true greatness about it is the initial concept and a few good images; from there, it’s all Hollywood predictability. But enough about that movie. Kaufman’s directorial debut is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Whereas the focus of his other great screenplays focus on blowing the viewer’s mind, this one intends to take it over, very slowly. Upon the initial viewing, one believes that the first few minutes are ‘normal’ and once the faucet hits his head, everything becomes a stream-of-consciousness essay on life, love, and the theater. But in fact, for those who have seen it before, notice next time: when Caden (Philip Seymour Hoffman) goes out to check his mail, the old man who will later portray him is standing across the street, studying his subject. Notice also the multiple changes of date on that first morning: when Caden’s alarms goes off, it says it’s the first day of Fall; when he notices the milk’s expired, the date on the carton is October 20th; there’s then a commercial saying happy Halloween; the date on the paper is then November 2nd. The meaning is debatable, but the fact that the insanity begins right away is a great thing indeed.
4. Werckmeister Harmonies – If you see one 2 1/2 hour, black and white Hungarian film completed in only 39 shots, make it this one. But seriously, it’s incredible. The plot involves a circus consisting of only a stuffed humpback whale and a foreign dwarf known as ‘the Prince’ coming into town and inspiring chaos on it’s citizens. Though it’s a bizarre premise, the film never feels dreamlike or psychotronic, only unsettling.
3. Wall-E – More than just Pixar’s best work to date. The simple yet monumental premise quickly becomes the purest, most endearing love story of this brand new century, despite the fact that the lovers are robots. In addition, the opening twenty-five minute sequence is a little mini-masterpiece in itself, possibly the greatest laugh-or-cry bit since Chaplin.
2. Mulholland Dr. – Here at the end of the decade, David Lynch’s masterpiece is finally getting the recognition it deserves. While some are content with the idea that the entire film is meant to represent one long dream, the more I see it, the more confident I am with the interpretation that about 2/3 of the film is a dream sequence. Either way, the film is hauntingly beautiful and showcases one of cinema’s greatest performances: Naomi Watts, in the role that made her a star.
1. Pan’s Labyrinth – Truly one of the great fantasies conceived, film or otherwise. Guillermo del Toro’s portrayal of Franco-era Spain as seen by an imaginative/regal ten year old girl features some of the greatest—more importantly, the most unnoticeable—special effects ever put on film, one of the most evil and terrifyingly believable villains, and an ending that will never be forgotten by those who see the film. Though this film received wonderful reviews and a respectable 3 Academy awards, it’s my personal opinion that this film will be recognized in the near future as one of the most perfectly crafted works in the medium.
A few honorable mentions:
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Sidney Lumet)
Borat (Larry Charles)
Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron)
Chop Shop (Ramin Bahrani)
The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
Dogville (Lars von Trier)
Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi)
Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog)
Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson)
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Peter Jackson)
Man on Wire (John Marsh)
Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood)
The New World (Terrence Malick)
Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aranofsky)
The Saddest Music in the World (Guy Maddin)
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki)
Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar)