The 100 Best Films of the Decade: 2000 – 2009 (Part 10)

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10- Donnie Darko (2001)

Directed by Richard Kelly

Although Donnie Darko was removed from the big screen after a few weeks, it never disappeared. Thrown away by its distributor it ended up finding its audience on home video and at midnight screenings. Recurrent chats on the Internet indicated a rapidly growing fan base for the movie. People in and out of the industry continued to talk about it. It became a cult film in the truest sense of the term and its audience base continues to grow. No other movie is able to capture that late ’80’s feel with such accuracy and as a result, Donnie Darko already seems nostalgic. Darko is a movie that demands to be explored, analyzed and debated among its aficionados. A contemporary Holden Caulfield in a dark and fabulous world of nightmares and dreams.

Listen to our review from podcast #167

9- Oldboy (2003)

Directed by Chan-wook Park

It would be a crime to reveal too much about this riveting and bizarre thriller but I can say this. Oldboy is many things: A mystery, a bloody revenge picture, a twisted romance, a prison film and a horrifying Korean psycho-drama. It is kinetic, energetic, haunting, gut wrenching, exhausting, deliriously brutal and consistently compelling. Old Boy is all this and more. A sadistic masterpiece that confirms Korea’s current status as producer of some of the world’s most exciting cinema.

8- Let The Right One In (2008)

Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Simply the best vampire film in decades. One of the best horror films of all time. A masterpiece. Mitch Davis (program director of the Fantasia Film Festival) put it best. He called it subversive, shocking, dreamlike touching, hypnotic and horrific. I say it is all this and more. The film follows the classical rules of vampire mythology, updating each of them in startling new ways, while hitting hard as both an outsider coming-of-age film and a mysterious love story that explores the darker side of adolescent alienation.

Listen to our review from podcast #73

7- Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Lester Bangs once described the experience of seeing Elvis Presley in person as having an erection of the heart. That is what I am sure Tarantino feels every time he steps into the director’s chair. A true distinctive piece of American art and somewhat of a transition for the director. Inglorious Basterds is Tarantino’s war film but more importantly his love letter to cinema. Tarantino’s passion comes through in every frame and love him or hate him; he makes the movies he wants to make and enjoys every minute of it. It is a film that is in love with movies and I love movies and I love Inglourious Basterds. Every great film has three great scenes. Inglourious Basterds has five.

Listen to our review from podcast #143

6- No Country for Old Men (2007)

Directed by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen

With No Country For Old Men, the Coen Brothers have found a perfect match in Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy. Their adaptation of McCarthy’s praised novel is a staggering masterpiece thanks to the sweeping cinematography by Roger Deakins, the edge-of-the-seat direction by Joel and Ethan Coen and the trio of unforgettable performances by Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones.

5- City Of God (2002)

Directed by Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund (co-director)

Brazillian director Frenando Merielles made a splash on the international film world with his dynamic and exciting feature debut, City of God, an account of the drug-fuelled crime scene in Rio de Janeiro. The incredibly dangerous on location photography, fast-paced editing, imaginative approach to narrative, expertly choreographed action and the brutal documentary-style approach make City of God required viewing. The utterly convincing cast of adults and teens are all nonprofessional and pulled from Rio`s slums. According to Meirelles, the children would occasionally advise him on procedure and details when he was filming street violence. Be warned that the violence in City of God is extreme and shocking and even though there is virtually no blood, the sight of so many very small children carrying and using handguns is eventually disorienting

4- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

Directed by Peter Jackson

Of the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Two Towers is by far my favorite film.

Of the three pieces, The Two Towers is the one with the biggest handicap. It is inflicted with the “middle chapter syndrome“, meaning it has no real beginning or end. It takes situations and characters introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring and prepares them for The Return of the King. This is a testament to the pure genius in director Peter Jackson for keeping his audience immersed in the moment so much so that the film can work on it’s own without needing the other two. In terms of its visual splendor, it is even better and bigger in scale than the first film and is a triumph of design and cinematic engineering. Jackson made the impossible possible and set the bar for future filmmakers so high that not even James Cameron surpassed it with this year’s Avatar.

3- There Will Be Blood (2007)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Between the sheer ambition of Paul Thomas Anderson’s historical epic and Robert Elswit’s dazzling cinematography, this is a must-see movie. There Will Be Blood will be dissected and revered 75 years from now. Film teachers will use this in their classrooms and future generations will appreciate it more than those now.  There Will Be Blood is a true American epic in every sense of the word and it automatically launches Paul Thomas Anderson from his position as one of the best filmmakers working today

2- The Wrestler (2008)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Mickey Rourke gives a performance for the ages in The Wrestler. Director Darren Aronofsky has drawn a remarkable achievement from Rourke and powerful portrayals from supporting players. Rourke’s wounded tough guy is undeniably captivating. He smacks you in the gut and wrenches your heart. As character studies go, this is among the most powerful and compelling I have seen in the past ten years. The film is meticulous in the ways it delves into Randy’s life, and it does so with creditability. This emotionally engaging, superbly directed drama with a terrific script might be a more effective and more complex meditation on addiction and eternal struggle than any of Aronofsky’s earlier work. The Wrestler will touch a chord in audiences the way On the Waterfront, Raging Bull and Rocky did in the past.

Listen to our review from podcast #83

Author’s note:

I just want to quickly mention that  many other websites list such  films as Audition, Beau Travail and The Blair Witch Project. However all three of these films received theatrical distribution in 1999. Therefore they would appear on my best of the nineties list.

1- Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

Directed by Béla Tarr / Ágnes Hranitzky (co-director)

Bela Tarr is one of the few genuinely visionary filmmakers but a highly acquired taste and so Tarr’s reputation remains quasi-legendary. As a metaphysical horror story, Werckmeister Harmonies deserves to be Tarr’s breakthrough with a cult audience strictly due to its brooding atmosphere. Though never explained the film title refers to the 17th-century German organist-composer Andreas Werckmeister, esteemed for his influential structure and harmony of music. Harmonies is strung together like a magnificent symphony working subliminally on the viewer’s emotions over large expanses of time even when the viewer is unaware of what’s going on. Any attempt to make sense of Tarr’s movies in strict narrative terms is doomed and so this will be a tough watch for many. But it’s also a film packed with memorable images. Shot by a team of seven cinematographers, the film is a technical triumph. Yet one of the key components to Werckmeister Harmonies is its minimalist style, a style that went on to influence Gus Can Sant’s Gerry and Elephant. This comes through in Tarr’s very long takes. Sometimes a scene will run for ten minutes without an edit. Dialogue is very sparse, and there are often long stretches were nobody says a word. In terms of technique, Werckmeister resembles Stanley Kubrick’s work, with its classically composed images, and occasionally the early films of David Lynch such as Eraserhead and The Elephant Man, with its stark black-and-white photography. Werckmeister Harmonies is a work of bravura filmmaking. Simply exquisite it invokes a feeling of nostalgia and sadness unlike any other film. The mournful beauty of Mihaly Vig’s score will stick with you for hours to come.

Special Mentions:

1- Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors

2- Flight of the Red Balloon

3- The Dreamers

4- Songs From The Second Floor

5- Syndromes and a Century

6- Tetro

7- Spirited Away

8- Departures

9- Tokyo Sonata

10- Friday Night

11- Everything Is Illuminated

12- Me You and Everyone We Know

13- Tout Est Parfait

14- Synecdoche, New York

15- Control

16- Mister Lonely

17- Red Road

18- Y Yu Mama Ta Bien

19- The Band’s Visit

20- Edge of Heaven

21- Crossing The Bridge

22- Chaser

23- Since Otar Left

34- La Antena

35- Headless Women

36- Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance

37- Tsotsi

38- Y tu mamá también

39- Yossi and Jager

40- XXY

41- May

42- Millions

43- In The Bedroom

44- The Bridge

45- My Winnipeg

46- Tarnation

47- High Fidelity

48- United 93

49- Happy Go Lucky

50- Stuck

51- Big Fish

52- American Psycho

53- Team America

54- Igby Goes Down

55- Superbad

56- Spiderman 2

57- Breakfast On Pluto

58- 24 Hour Party People

59- Drive

60- Musa The Warrior

61- Casino Royal

62- Little Children

63- How to Get the Man’s Foot Outta Your Ass

64- 24 Hour Parry People

65- Hot Fuzz

66- Yi yi

67- A Very Long Engagement

68- Traffic

69- A.I.

70- Munich

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