Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Best Films of the Double Ohs



Finally! After almost four weeks, I can finally put this damn decade behind me and move on to the next...already in progress.


As much as I really loathe this practice of compiling lists, I still manage to compile them year after tedious year since the inception of this here blog o' mine. But now that the first decade of the formerly new millennium is now over and done with, I've found it rather...dare I say...rewarding in some fashion. As much as I bitch and moan about compiling these bloody things, I continue to do so, maybe because it's some sort of cheap therapy for me. After all, these things only reflect my tastes and no one else's, so the lists say more about me than the movies themselves. Or it's all just wanking at the keyboards. (Wasn't that the title of the Van Cliburn autobiography?)

At the top o' my list, my choice for the Best Film of the Decade: Wes Anderson's THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS

Delivering on the promise he showed with RUSHMORE, Anderson created this dysfunctional family circus, an absolutely perfect piece of cinema that I will cherish for years to come (thanks Max). I disagree with the knock on Anderson that his work is too precious and mannered, more style than substance. There is certainly both in this film, Anderson working on all cylinders. Anchoring TENENBAUMS in the most overlooked performance of the decade is the rascally Gene Hackman, the ringmaster of this saga. For me, this was one big smile from beginning until end, lingering long and often in my personal filmography.

Followed by:

Park Chan Wook's OLD BOY and Hayao Miyazaki's SPIRITED AWAY- Two films, complete polar opposites in both style and content, that catapulted my love for Asian cinema this last decade. Wook's extreme revenge tale resonates with each viewing and really launched the popularity of Korean film. Thanks to my grandson Sebastian, I was able to lower my resistance to Japanese anime with Miyazaki's masterpiece and discover the treasures this extraordinary filmmaker has to offer.

Martin Scorsese's THE DEPARTED

Oscar finally smiled on Uncle Marty and justice has been served at last.

Alexander Payne's SIDEWAYS

With a better track record than Wes Anderson, Payne really knocked one of the park with this comedy of friendship, wine and unpublished manuscripts. This hit me right where I live.

Danny Boyle's SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

See previous posting. I'm a willing sucker for this great fairy tale.

Andrew Dominik's THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD

Best goddamn western of the last twenty years. Period.

Peter Jackson's LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy

I still can't believe he pulled it off. To recall this accomplishment makes me forgive his KING KONG stumble.

James Marsh's WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP

Best goddamn documentary of the decade, much better than his MAN ON WIRE. Well worth seeking out.

Tomas Alfredson's LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

Brilliant vampire film that deserves to be seen. Right up there with NEAR DARK.

Pete Docter's UP

How do you really pick anything from Pixar? No studio has a better catalog. I could have easily substituted FINDING NEMO, RATATOUILLE, WALL-E, THE INCREDIBLES or MONSTERS INC. But UP, the simplest of the bunch, charmed my socks off.

Robert Altman's GOSFORD PARK and A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION

Perfect swan songs from the master, the former a surprise British treatise, the latter a Valentine to a dying art form.

Also: CITY OF GOD,MEMENTO, PAN'S LABYRINTH,Steven Spielberg's sci-fi trilogy (AI, MINORITY REPORT, WAR OF THE WORLDS), ELECTION/TRIAD ELECTION, O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?, JUNO, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, SEABISCUIT, AMERICAN SPLENDOR, MYSTIC RIVER, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, QUILLS, PAPRIKA, MILLENNIUM ACTRESS, UNITED 93, HERO, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON and LANTANA

Worst Movie of the Last Ten Years

No movie fills my mouth with more bile than the horrible botch job known as Bryan Singer's wretched SUPERMAN RETURNS. Way to ruin a franchise for the next twenty years, Bry.

Finally Thoughts

The first ten years of this century also renewed my passion for film itself, a project I conceived in 2002 when I wrote myself a "bucket list" of sorts of 52 cinematic classics I had never seen. (Kind of like 10001 Films to See Before You Die...only shorter) 52 was the goal I set, at least one great film a week for a year. Eight years later and I'm still a couple shy, but I made up for in volume in substitutions. I'll write in length about this in a future installment but here are the original 52:

BLACK NARCISSUS, THE RED SHOES, RED DESERT, SPARTACUS, THE GREAT DICTATOR, METROPOLIS, THE CROWD, THE 400 BLOWS, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, FURY, RAN, THE SEVEN SAMURAI, MEPHISTO, NIGHTS OF CABIRIA, OPEN CITY, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, NAKED CITY, THE CINCINNATI KID, THE HUSTLER, GIANT, 8 1/2, LA DOLCE VITA, PICKPOCKET, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, BREATHLESS, JULES AND JIM, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE LOST WEEKEND, PURPLE NOON, KING OF HEARTS, THE TIN DRUM, THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, A FACE IN THE CROWD, A PLACE IN THE SUN, THE APU TRILOGY (PATHER PANCHALI, APARIJITO, THE WORLD OF APU), WEEKEND, DIABOLIQUE, THE FIREMAN'S BALL, BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET, LE SAMOURAI, THE MYSTERY OF KASPER HAUSER, THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN, LOLA MONTES-all of which I did see

Those remaining from the original 52: DAS BOOT, HEART OF GLASS, TRISTANA, THE TESTAMENT OF ORPHEUS

I'll get around to these soon enough, but I've had ten times as many viable substitutions to make up for the incomplete grade I've given myself.

There is an entire world of film out there that is yours for the asking, the taking, the viewing. If you have any love for movies at all, you owe to yourself to open your eyes and see what else is out there. You never know what you might find, whether it be an Italian western, a Danish crime film, a Brazilian love story, an Australian sci-fi or even a Russian cartoon. And don't ignore American film history either. You'll never know where you're going until you know where you've been.

Trust me. The thrill of discovery is a joy to experience and you'll want it again and again.

Open your eyes. You'll be amazed what you'll see.

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