Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My Films of the 2000's: #60-41

The 2000's officially came to a close a couple of days ago (Yes, the 2000's. I refuse to call them the "naughties." Who the fuck came up with that name?). I've already started counting down the top songs of the decade, but now it is time to get started with the films. Before I begin, I must state that this list is not a definitive list of "bests." I like to think that I have expansive, exquisite taste in movies but when I compare what I've seen to someone like Nick Davis, I realize I've seen almost nothing. I forget that I was young at the beginning of the decade and didn't get hardcore into film watching until at least 2003. There are so many arthouse and foreign films I haven't yet seen there's no way I could compile a decent "best of" list. If I did, I fear it would be full of Eternal Sunshines and Kill Bills that everyone and their mother would put on their list. And if there's one thing I don't want to be, it's boring and predictable. So, in the spirit of originality, I compiled a list of 60(-ish) films that "defined" the decade for me. They may not be the ones that received the highest grades from me and, in some instances, the films themselves are quite terrible, but they're the ones I think about most often and have come to dominate the 2000's for me. Okay, now that that lengthy exposition is out of the way, let's get started.

Oh, one more thing. In two instances (both appearing on today's list) two films have become so intertwined in my head that I combined them together into one entry. And there's one trilogy that I lumped together as well (yes, it's the one you're probably thinking of and not the one on everybody else's list).


60. Star Trek (2009)

Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin

The summer action blockbuster, a genre I normally detest with every muscle of my body, done absolutely well. Some people had problems with the sexual politics, but I, frankly, didn't find anything wrong with them (Up in the Air on the other hand...). Instead, I just sat back and reveled in a light-hearted tentpole picture that was actually consistently funny and entertaining.

59. The Hours (2002)
Director: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman

The Hours prompted my biggest change of heart of any film of the decade. When I first saw it in the summer of 2003, I completely detested the movie (I think I gave it a D+). Meryl Streep was my favorite section and I absolutely adored Nicole Kidman's breakdown at the train station. Years later, I saw the film again and immediately bumped it up to a great-but-still-not-perfect B. Julianne Moore became my favorite section and Kidman's breakdown was a complete embarrassment (she's much better in the quiet moment where she lies in the grass and stares at the camera). This film is the perfect example of what a few years will do to your opinion of a film.

58. 27 Dresses (2008)
Director: Anne Fletcher
Starring: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Judy Greer

I have now seen 27 Dresses three times and to this day I'm not quite sure why I keep coming back to it. And talk about flip-fopping! Over the course of 2008, I swear I changed this grade at least eight times, always debating the high points (exceptionally funny cast, James Marsden's face, above-average script) with its weaknesses (occasionally flat dialogue, Malin Akerman). In the end, whatever faults 27 Dresses has don't really matter because if someone asked me right now if I wanted to watch it my answer would be an enthusiastic "Yes please!"

57. In Her Shoes (2002)
Director: Curtis Hanson
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley MacLaine

One of the best films about sibling relationships I've ever seen. Hanson extracted all the pin-point precise and ultimately beautiful details from the schmaltzy chick lit source by Jennifer Weiner. And if you've ever had any doubts about Diaz's acting abilities, watch the scene where she reads out loud to the man in the hospital.

56. Havoc (2005)
Director: Barbara Kopple
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Freddy Rodriguez, Bijou Phillips, Mike Vogel

An insane, mind-blowing film about the problems and pressures surrounding today's teenagers. Okay, it's not exactly relatable to every teen since it's about rich white kids in a gang and their problems involve scoring drugs from the wrong side of town and getting revenge on a Mexican gang. And, okay, it's insanely bad and racist in ways even The Blind Side can't imagine. But all of that doesn't matter. Havoc is the epitome of 2000's trash cinema and features a fearless, groundbreaking performance from Hathaway (who shows her breasts three times!).

55. Jennifer's Body (2009)
Director: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Megan Fox, Adam Brody

Bad marketing killed Jennifer's Body, Diablo Cody's first film after achieving fame with Juno, at the box office. The film was marketed as a straight horror movie but it's truly a dark comedy/horror hybrid. I was howling at the excessively fake gore and blood. Seyfried and Brody were brilliant, as usual, and I must give props to Fox since the film didn't make me want to murder her by the end.

54. Far From Heaven (2002)
Director: Todd Haynes
Starring: Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson

Like The Hours, this one took some time to finally "get" and boy am I glad I finally did. A beautiful and fitting tribute to the Sirkian melodrama.

53. 2 Days in Paris (2007)
Director: Julie Delpy
Starring: Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg, Daniel Brühl

I randomly found this movie on Netflix on Demand and afterwards I was furious that no one I know of had even talked about this movie, let alone recommended it. As a director, Julie Delpy has a great Woody Allen-ish knack for finding humor in the most awkward and degrading of situations. As an actress, she's probably one of the most giving actor-directors I've ever seen. I was surprised by how few of the scenes--if any--revolve solely around her or are simply there just to stroke her ego. Quite simply, 2 Days in Paris is one of the best romances of the decade. Bonus points for Daniel Brühl and his "I'm a fairy" line.

52. Day Night Day Night (2007)
Director: Julia Loktev
Starring: Luisa Williams

Day Night Day Night is not a film for everyone and, at first, I was hesitant about this plotless, nearly dialogueless film about a nameless girl who becomes a suicide bomber for a nameless group with unspoken goals. Finally, about 15 minutes in, the film clicked into place and I was entranced by the slow rhythm of the film and the way the camera carefully observed its surroundings. I honestly believe it was the success I had with Day Night Day Night that allowed me to get through and enjoy Godard's La Chinoise and (especially) Le Gai Savoir.

51. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent

The moment Nicole Kidman became a star. I think that's something we can all be grateful for. And even if, for me, the ending is a bit muddled and lovey dovey for my taste, the electric musical scenes in the Moulin Rouge are some of the most exciting and alive moments in any film this decade. Bonus points for the 'Elephant Love Medley'--I always sing the Nicole part!


50. 17 Again (2009)
Director: Burr Steers
Starring: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Sterling Knight

Obsessed (2009)
Director: Steve Shill
Starring: Beyoncé, Ali Larter, Idris Elba

I saw both of these movies within the span of a couple of weeks and both 17 Again and Obsessed are memorable for the same (and wrong) reasons. I'm not one to usually shout in the theatres, but I was acting like I had the Spirit in me when I saw these movies. During 17 Again, I swooned and gushed (both the times I saw it on opening weekend) during the opening shot where Zac is shooting hoops shirtless (yes, I am a 13 year old girl). Then, when bully Hunter Parrish punches Zac, I literally screamed "DON'T PUNCH HIM IN HIS PRETTY FACE!" When I went to see Obsessed, I wasn't talking so much as I was giggling non-stop throughout the whole damn movie. As the climactic cat fight came on, I was a goner. As bad as both of these films are, they are the films from 2009 I think about the most, whether it is Efron or Beyoncé's star turns in their respective films, Mann's ability to look absolutely gorgeous and do no wrong in any film she's in or a fond remembrance of my discovery of Sterling Knight.

49. Bug (2007)
Director: William Friedkin
Starring: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Harry Connick, Jr.

Now this is how you do a horror film. Friedkin's take on the paranoia thriller was stuck in my head for days after I first saw it (alone and late at night, I must add). I think what makes Bug a can't miss is the fact that the situation presented in the first two acts is so ordinary that anyone, in the right state of mind, could dissolve into madness and paranoia in the same way Ashley Judd does.

48. Y Tu Mamá También (2002)
Director: Alfonso Cuar&ocaute;n
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Marbiel Verdú

I need to see this film again for I remember very little about the film itself, other than the moments of passion and the sad, vague feeling about the end of a friendship that dominates the film as it progresses. Oh, and there's that little ole scene where Bernal and Luna have sex that I must have rewound 5 or 10 times. No one said this list was going to be totally classy!

47. Jesus Camp (2006)
Director: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady

Literally one of the most frightening experiences I've ever had watching a movie. Jesus Camp is every liberal's worst nightmare: a documentary about a religion that trains their children to become God Warriors at all costs and, ironically, idolizes the way terrorist cells trained the people who ended up flying the planes into the Twin Towers. Scary in theory, piss-your-pants frightening since it is reality. As the film progressed, particularly during the scene where the children are practically heil-ing a cardboard cutout of George Bush, I kept sliding lower and lower in my seat, trying to shield my eyes with the hood of my jacket.

46. Superbad (2007)
Director: Greg Mottola
Starring: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Teenage heterosexual sex comedies are not normally my thing, but Superbad is more focused on genuine bawdy laughs rather than the same boob and fart jokes over and over again. In a year where something as trite and painfully unfocused as The Hangover got wide acclaim both at the box office and critically, it makes me appreciate Superbad even more. The film may be chaotic, but there's a method to its madness.

45. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
Director: George Clooney
Starring: Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore

In a decade where biopics of varying degrees of suckiness and ineptitude where given awards like they invented movies all over again, it is not surprising that one as fascinating, immersive and, most importantly, fun as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind received very little acclaim or attention when released. I still think it's better than Good Night, and Good Luck, Clooney's best performance, Barrymore's best performance until Grey Gardens, one of Roberts' best post-Brockovich performances and one of the decade's best "star is born" performances from Sam Rockwell.

44. (500) Days of Summer (2009)
Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel

My most anticipated movie for 2009. I waited for ages it felt like for it to come to my town and when it finally did...nothing. I enjoyed the film quite a bit, especially individual scenes like the foreign film scene, the fantasy/reality party and the musical number, but I wonder if overhyping it in my head knocked this film down a bit. Another viewing is definitely in order soon, but, until then, I'll have to live with my lovely (if not rapturous quite yet) first impression.

43. Shelter (2008)
Director: Jonah Markowitz
Starring: Trevor Wright, Brad Rowe, Tina Holmes

Boy A (2008)
Director: John Crowley
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Peter Mullan, Siobhan Finneran

As you probably know, films about emotionally damaged and/or distant young males are my crack and 2008 offered two fantastic independent films in this minor, often ignored subgenre. Shelter, aka the gay surfing movie, really had no reason to be as good as it turned out to be. The gay ghetto of filmmaking often relies on the same "coming out" crutch in every film, but Shelter deals with other themes besides the inevitable admission of homosexuality (and even that is done simply and beautifully). What I enjoyed about Trevor Wright was that he offered a gay character we haven't seen before--the emotionally closed-off gay--and portrayed it in a realistic, non-baity way. Andrew Garfield, as a young man attempting to move on with his life after committing a horrific childhood crime, has a whole film to carry on his shoulders in Boy A. As far as emotionally damaged boys go, he's up there with Hutton in Ordinary People and Firth in Equus, so I was obviously hooked like a heroin junkie to the emotional journey he goes through. When that great scene at the restaurant came around, I was so attached to Garfield, I nearly mimicked him in his unreadable reaction to the present his girlfriend gave him.

42. Thirteen (2003)
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed, Holly Hunter

Before Hardwicke's dull and lifeless adaptation of Twilight, she burst on the scene with this scathing look at today's teenagers. The most refreshing thing about Thirteen is the fact that Hardwicke doesn't preach morality or pass senseless judgment on any of the characters, a very uncommon feat in the teen film. Bonus points for being one of the three films one of my best friends in high school (who seriously considered The Beverly Hillbillies movie one of the best she had ever seen) and I ever agreed on.

41. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008)
Director: Peter Sollett
Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Ari Graynor, Rafi Gavron

A 1930's screwball comedy set in the world of surprisingly non-irritating and unpretentious indie hipster high schoolers. Cera and Dennings have immense charm and chemistry, but its Ari Graynor as Dennings' drunk best friend who steals the show, providing a hilarious new twist on a stereotyped role.

1 comment:

Wayne said...

Great list so far, Bud. Can't wait to read the rest!