Sunday, December 20, 2009

Top Twenty 2001-2010

I should be editing, but I decided to make a top ten (or twenty or more) list instead.

The Top Ten...

Ali - Michael Mann's best movies of the decade (Ali and Miami Vice) are the ones that got the least love. Maybe they're too arty to be commercial and too commercial to be arty? I prefer the theatrical version to the director's cut. If the first ten minutes, a cinematic catapult that propels you into the film, doesn't grab you, you don't have a pulse. Intercutting gorgeous 35mm footage with grainy video, Mann makes it seem so effortless.

25th Hour - Spike Lee is still one our most amazing directors. 25th Hour is my third favorite of his, after He Got Game and Do The Right Thing. And to think I had to turn it off the first time I tried to watch it!

The New World - Terrence Malick and Emmanuel Lubiezki blow my mind. I couldn't have been less interested in another story of John Smith and Pocahontas. Malick's cinema transcends story and plot - his is a cinema of mood and experience unlike any other.

Kill Bill V.1 - Made me feel like a ten year old boy walking out of the theater giddy and excited and with a big stupid grin on my face.

Elephant - Gus Van Sant and Harris Savides eulogy to high school. Modeled after the Columbine shootings, a societal loss of innocence. Van Sant and Savides' photography lingers ghost like on high school teens. What might get lost with the eventual mass tragedy is the way that body issues, sexual identity issues and social ostracization is tearing many of these kids apart figuratively before the bullets do it literally. One of the best depictions of high school put to screen (or at least that I can remember).

Mulholland Drive
- Fresh off the Straight Story, David Lynch returns to form. The movie may be confusing as typical narrative, but it is wholly satisfying as an emotional narrative. Even if you can't explain what's going on, you feel what's going on. The film is heartbreaking.

Royal Tenenbaums - My favorite Wes Andersen film. Amazing cast. Perfect intersection of story and style. The people who damage us the most are the ones we care most about. Kindness can be followed or preceded by cruelty. Humans are confused and confusing.

Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - An examination of celebrity? Maybe. Better: An examination of idolatry and failure. Our heroes, famous or not will fail us and let us down. The people we look up do will do dubious things that we won't understand. The lowest coward can be capable of more kindness and understanding than the strong willed who influence our values and raise our aspirations. If we are lucky we will somehow escape self exhaltation and dissappointment that comes when others realize we aren't perfect. And also we will avoid being the coward who aims for the superficial glory.

Spirited Away - Hayao Miyazaki makes the best fantasy film of the decade. Peter Jackson comes in a close second. Animation that takes you into a scary and exciting world without dumbing it down for adults or children.

Time Out - A man drops out of life, building a lie that has no option but to shatter and ultimately implicate him. The traps we build for ourselves in order to preserve the impression we want others to have of us.

LOL/Mutual Appreciation
(tie) - Finally, a new wave of American Independent Cinema made on low budgets striking out with bold and unique voices. Despite the odds against (and an unfair backlash), they found an audience and prove that there is still room for intelligent and unique work in cinema.

Shotgun Stories
Brown Bunny
Little Miss Sunshine
All The Real Girls
Spiderman 2
Science of Sleep

And because I couldn't resist, some of my other favorites of the decade:

George Washington, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Miami Vice, Lost in Translation, Where The Wild Things Are, Watchmen, Dark Water, Ichi The Killer, Broken Flowers, 40 Year Old Virgin, Zodiac, Squid and The Whale, Munich, Gangs of New York, The Intruder, Trouble Every Day, Black Dahlia, The Two Towers, Talk To Her.

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