Since everyone is doing their favorite lists of the decade, I figured it was time to man-up and do mine, starting with films. I think a key distinction of my list is that I’m calling it a Favorite list, not a Best list. These aren’t necessarily the greatest artistic achievements of the decade. They didn’t all break new ground or redefine film as we know it. They’re the ones I love the best and that’s the only criteria I’m going by.
Oh, and there are eleven of them, not ten. I couldn’t decide what else to knock off and it’s my blog so, hey, it can be eleven if I want it to.
1. Children of Men
I don’t think there was another film this decade that said as much about humanity as this one. It also happens to be incredibly entertaining. I was so tense the fist time I saw it my hands sweated until the credits rolled. Alfonso Cuaron presents us with a near future where no babies have been born for over eighteen years. Clive Owen ends up trying to shepherd the first pregnant woman in a very long time to meet scientists who will study her in an attempt to save mankind. In the meantime, he has to protect her from the right-wing authorities and left-wing rebels who can’t think beyond their causes to the good of humanity. The concept could overwhelm the story but never does. Alfonso Cuaron directed it with a confidence that’s rare in movies from any decade.
2. The Lord of the Rings
I’m at a loss to say much more about these movies. I mean, who hasn’t seen them? What I think I love most about them is that for all the high-tech wizardry, they still feel like they’re happening in a real world. Armor is gritty with dirt in the seams and every orcs’ face is unique and detailed. Peter Jackson’s attempt to keep a fantasy world “realistic” is a technique that was pioneered by George Lucas in the original Star Wars movies, but forgotten by him for the prequels.
3. The Dark Knight
Recently, Kevin Smith was asked about doing superhero adaptations, to which he answered something along the lines of, “What’s the point? It’s not like I’ll make something better than The Dark Knight.” Christopher Nolan pushed the superhero genre up to a level that will be hard to hit anytime soon. This is the first superhero movie to truly stake out the costs of doing the right thing and how difficult it is to even know what that is.
4. Eternal Sunshin of the Spotless Mind
I’m a fan of movies written by Charlie Kaufman and this is my favorite. As “out there” as the concept is, it’s rooted in a story of failed love that’s as convincing as any I’ve ever seen. And it ends with the idea that real love is always worth experiencing AND remembering, even if it ends in heartache.
5. Wall E
I’m probably the only one of my friends that will put this movie on their list and I’m comfortable with that. The fact is this movie is like a master class on cinematic storytelling. It also stars the most likable protagonist ever put on film.
The funniest, most quotable movie of the decade.
“I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal.”
“I love lamp.”
“I hear their periods attract bears.”
“It’s made with bits of real panther, so you know it’s good.”
I pretty much laugh through the whole thing.
7. The Bourne Ultimatum
Thank god someone knows how to make action that doesn’t involve blowing up the planet. The movie, and Bourne himself, moves like a shark from the start to the finish. Paul Greengrass shows he’s the only director in the world who can do the whole “shaky cam in the middle of the fight” thing without utterly confusing me. It worked against him in the second Bourne movie, but really paid off here.
8. Spider-man 2
Though it’s been recently dethroned as my favorite superhero movie of all time (see #3), this movie still delivers the goods. It can be corny, but proudly wears its heart on its sleeve and I love it for that. Again, it’s another movie that explores the personal cost of living a life of responsibility, though the right thing to do is clearer than it is in Nolan’s Gotham. Plus, Raimi’s action scenes are bursting with energy in a way only he can pull off.
9. High Fidelity
I’m always a little sad at the end of this movie because I feel like I’m saying goodbye to friends. The characters are the types of people I’ve known all my life. Rob, played by John Cusack, is true to many guys in the world who toe the line of emotional maturity, but have never had the guts to cross it. When this came out, I heard a lot of people saying they didn’t like it because he was such a jerk. I think if many people took a step back and looked at themselves or the people they know, we’ve all done things that could get us classified the same way. This is just that rare movie presenting a non-idealized character and I think that’s part of the reason I love it so much.
10. Casino Royale
After years upon years of waiting, Eon Productions finally delivered the James Bond movie I had been waiting for. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
11. The Squid and the Whale
This movie is an examination of the ramifications of parents’ selfishness on their own children, especially when it comes to divorce. Jeff Daniels plays the type of self-involved ass I’ve spent my life trying to avoid, though I can’t stop watching him in this. Noah Baumbach could also teach classes in storytelling efficiency. There is not one wasted second in the whole movie.
So those are my picks. Agree? Disagree? Do I have no taste whatsoever?