15 December 2009

Top Ten of the Decade

My dad sent me an email with the following link:

And this question: 

What do you think?

Here is my response, since I have some time on my hands: 


I think it's a damn good list that is just lacking a bit in variety. The closest thing he as to comedy on there is The Incredibles, which I don't really like that much. (Finding Nemo (2003) is the best Pixar movie of the decade, in my opinion.) I made a list of my own, which, I know, leaves some great ones out (Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Juno, Into the Wild, Minority Report, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, etc), but it adds in some lesser known movies (Moonlight Mile and All the Real Girls) and some big-time, but important, comedies (The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad). Here it is:

1. Moonlight Mile (Brad Silberling, 2002)

This is a simple movie named after a 1970 Rolling Stones song that is loaded with an acting tour-de-force. Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon take in their murdered daughter's fiance (Jake Gyllenhaal...who steals the show), and we see them grieve and cope together in the early 1970s. Ellen Pompeo (pre-Gray's Anatomy) shines like the sun as the love interest. It seems bleak from the description, but this movie will leave you with a smile on your face for days, months, years. I saw it in the theater in 2002, and I still think about it weekly. One of the best movie experiences of my life! Simple, true, and brilliant!

2. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000)

Rock 'n' roll period piece (based on Cameron Crowe's actual experiences as a teen journalist) about a 15-year-old rock writer in over his head writing a cover story on an Allman-like rock band for Rolling Stone. It gave us Kate Hudson, who made everyone in America fall in love, and it made every music worshipping teenage boy jealous of Cameron Crowe's life story. This movie will grab your ears and your heart and make you realize why life is great.

3. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)

The most realistic-seeming portrait of the future I've seen. Cuaron's skill behind the camera is nothing short of amazing. There is a 13-minute action sequence in this movie that is composed of one long take. No cuts at all! Even if you don't care about or notice that type of stuff, it doesn't matter because the story is so compelling and well-told.

4. All the Real Girls (David Gordon Green, 2003)

One of David Gordon Green's first three Southern masterpieces along with George Washington (2000) and Undertow (2004), this movie explores a relationship between a small-town womanizer and his best friend's innocent younger sister. The power of first love has never been more accurately portrayed, and it hits home with me because it was filmed and is set in small-town Western North Carolina. It put Paul Schneider, a great actor, on the map. And gave Zooey Deschanel a starring role for the first time. They are both incredible.

5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)

The power of love in reverse with a title taken from an Alexander Pope poem. Jim Carrey as you've never seen him before, trying to hold onto memories as they're being erased from his brain. Kate Winslet makes you realize how much you love her too. And it's just so weird! Plus, Jon Brion's score will haunt you for life. Just one in a series of writer Charlie Kaufman's brain-busting movies of the 2000s.

6. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000)

Quite simply, one of the best comedies I've seen. You can quote almost any line in it. You know someone is cool if they quote this movie. Jack Black is at the top of his game, Cusack is always good, and Tim Robbins' cameo role is stellar. You have to include a movie that glorifies elitist list-making in an elitist's list.

7. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)

Scorsese at his beat-ass best...Boston-style! Probably one of the best ensemble casts ever assembled (Leo, Matty Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen) with an ending that I never saw coming and that still shocks me every single time.

8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)

The most beautifully filmed movie I've ever seen. The cinematography is unlike anything you will ever see. The music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is heartbreaking. And Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck give unbelievable performances.

9. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)

Cormac McCarthy's bleak, violent, and existential look at America given a visual pulse by the best American filmmakers working today. Enough said!

10. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Judd Apatow, 2005) / Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)

I picked these two comedies because of their success across the board. Everybody loves these movies, and I cannot exclude myself from that list. These are two of the most quotable movies ever. And they are both honest and true to the way men, from high school to age 40, really talk. Judd Apatow had a hand in both of these projects, and it put him on the map in a big way along with Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill.

Honorable Mentions: 

25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)

This movie should actually be in my top five. We'll just consider it a tie with #3 Children of Men for best dramatic film of the decade. It is masterful. The story of a drug dealer's last 24 hours before going to prison. It is at once the story of a man who wishes he'd done things differently, the story of a man's lifelong friendships, the story of a man and his father, and it is all set in front of the back drop of post - 9/11 New York City/America. If you are not in tears at the end, you have neither heart nor soul.

Avatar (James Cameron, 2009)

I just saw this masterpiece last night. It is THE most visually stunning thing I have ever seen. Most of it is CGI, but it is the best CGI ever used by anyone. James Cameron (behind the camera for the first time since Titanic) has retained his title as "King of the World" to paraphrase Roger Ebert. And I agree. This is certainly worthy of a best of the decade list for the sheer fact that there has never been a better marriage between allegory and special effects. Go see it! And read my full review above.

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