The 100 Best Films of the Decade: 2000 – 2009 (part 6)
Before I get to number 49 I feel the need to list fifty honorable mentions. This is a very personal list and I am confident that I could have easily chosen 100 foreign language films or 100 independent art house films and skipped out on all the Hollywood flicks, but I decided to go with a list of films that I revisit on a regular basis.
Special Mention: The Directors (Total: 15)
There are many popular directors who have appeared on this list so far. I couldn’t go without mentioning a few more films from these men and women. Contrary to most critics I was a big fan of M Knight’s gripping and well-made Hitchcockian thriller Signs as well as a film inspired by story of Kurt Cobain. Gus Van Sant`s Last Days presents a meditative journey through the last days in the life of a fictional musician. Werner Herzog is always a sure thing and in the past decade he delivered with three great films. The first is Grizzly Man, an engrossing look at obsessive behavior. The film explores the life and death of amateur grizzly bear expert and wildlife preservationist Timothy Treadwell. The second film by Herzog on my list is The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans, a surprisingly compelling piece of work that will quickly earn a cult following in the years to come. Finally the third film by Herzog is My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, based on the true story of an unstable actor who, cast as Orestes in Sophocles’ Electra, so identified with the role that he actually killed his mother. Paul Thomas Anderson has quickly become my favorite new director in the past decade. Punch Drunk Love is his manic-depressive romantic comedy and intensely compelling character study that had mainstream audiences scratching their heads and sophisticated film lovers singing its praise. Sophia Coppola`s Marie Antoinette set itself apart from all other period dramas by telling a story through its daring soundtrack, attitude and lavish imagery.
David Cronenberg already has two films on the top 100 and I could have easily added Spider. Based on the compelling novel by Patrick McGrath, (who also adapts the screenplay) Spider is arguably the subtlest, most carefully textured film of Cronenberg’s career. The Coen brothers have also ended the decade with their best work. O Brother, Where Art Thou is a reasonably entertaining little exercise in a manner of screwball comedy while The Man Who Wasn’t There showcases the talents of the Coen brothers writing and also lets cinematographer Roger Deakins show off his skills. His artful black-and-white photography beautifully recreates the shadows and starkness of the noir film world, and hearkens back to a time when noir was really something to behold. Michael Haneke`s Palme D`Or winner Cache deserves special mention for being intriguing, shocking, frustrating and meticulously crafted and Tarantino`s Death Proof features one of the greatest car chases in cinematic history that is worth the price of admission alone. Andrew Dominik Chopper is fascinating material for anyone prepared for a grim ride. Fans of Bronson should appreciate this picture and director Brad Bird’s feature The Incredibles is one of many films that prove when it comes to animation, it doesn’t get any better than Pixar. Finally Park Chan-wook hits all the classic vampire themes in all the best ways with his latest feature Thirst.
Special Mention: Horror (Total: 15)
The past decade as also seen the best wave of horror films to come out since the 70`s. Fifteen horror films that stand out are The Descent, Drag Me To Hell, Paranormal Activity, House of the Devil, The Orphanage, The Children, The Mist, 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, The Others, Rec 2,The Mist, A Tale of Two Sisters, Slither and The Loved Ones.
Special Mention: Documentary (Total: 5)
It has also been a great decade for documentaries. Just a few to mention are The Nomi Song about Klaus Nomi, one of the 1980s’ most profoundly bizarre characters to emerge through rock music and Anvil! The Story of Anvil about the band Anvil, the demi-gods of Canadian metal. Many docs proved to be extremely controversial and Tony Kaye`s graphic documentary Lake of Fire about both sides of the abortion debate is a prime example. Another emotionally powerful documentary from 2008 was Dear Zachary, an emotional roller-coaster of a movie that is truly a labor of love from filmmaker Kurt Kuenne who set out to make a memorial about his best friend who was brutally murdered. One last documentary that really stood out is the 2009 film The Cove by director Louie Psihoyos, an impeccably crafted, suspenseful expose of the covert slaughter of dolphins in Japan.
Special Mention: Award Winners (Total: 5)
Of course there are many major award winning films that could have appeared on my list but did not. They are: Atonement which picked up the best picture at the Golden Globes in 2007. Both Chicago and Crash picked up best picture at the Oscars and although I do like these two films, I couldn’t justify placing them on my top 100. Finally there are two Golden Palm winners that almost made it into my list; L’enfant from 2005 and The Wind That Shakes the Barley from 2006.
Special Mention: Indie / Art House (Total: 10)
My favorite award show is The Independent Spirit Awards who always do an outstanding job in not only deciding the winners but also the nominees. Here is a list of ten films nominated for best picture at the award show that I wish I could have included on my top 100 list. First on the list is David Gordon Green`s stunning directorial debut George Washington, a beautifully-photographed highly poetic drama which fuses the work of Terence Malick with Harmony Korine. Jim Jarmush`s deadpan parody Ghost Dog deserves mention. Heavily influenced by one of my favorite films of all time, Jean-Pierre Melville`s Le Samourai, Ghost Dog is a film that should be examined in film school.
L.I.E. is a penetrating look at a 14-year-old boy’s relationship with a pedophile. The young director, Michael Cuesta delivers a provocative, upsetting film with something important to say. Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal impressed everyone in Jim Shainberg’s Secretary examining sadomasochistic behavior at the workplace. I am sure most people will also remember the American family road comedy Little Miss Sunshine which received a best picture nod at the Academy Awards. A year later Fox Searchlight Pictures delivered with Juno, another sleeper hit which was also nominated for best film. Juno was an impressive step forward for director Jason Reitman. Forget Kramer vs. Kramer, The Squid and The Whale is of the divorce genre’s best films and American Splendor which took home gold in Cannes and wowed audiences at Sundance was a fantastic bio-pic on artist Harvey Pekar. Last but not least is the experimental sci-fi mind bender Primer, the award winning Maria Full of Grace and Tommy Lee Jones’ directorial debut The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is both a potent western and a powerful morality tale.