Sunday, January 10, 2010

Favorite Movies of the Decade #30-16

the list #100-76, #75-51, #50-31, #30-16 and #15-1.
Awards for 2009 begin tomorrow or thereabouts.

For this next group installment of the countdown we start in beautiful France and have a lot of trouble leaving it! It even pulls us back in the end.

30 Beau Travail dir. Claire Denis (1999, released in 2000)
It's okay that I haven't seen it in so long that it feels like a dream now. It always did. And that "Rhythm of the Night" ending. My oh my oh my. Denis has cast her unique spell many times since, but never quite like this.

29 Caché (Hidden) dir Michael Haneke (2005)
A boon to patient moviegoers... and a bane. But who tortures audiences with as much control, mystery and depth of meaning? It's easy to make an audience jump with loud jarring sound cues and shock cuts. But I've never seen anyone make an audience leap and gasp as loudly, like one collective frightened hive, without the aid of music or editing. Haneke is a master.

28 Marie Antoinette dir. Sofia Coppola (2006)
My most controversial "favorite" all decade long. So many people were outright angered by Sofia Coppola's third dream of a movie. Imagine making a historical epic about a frivolous young woman from her point of view. And without the violence! "How DARE she!?! Only men (of any age and temperament) deserve historical epics from their own points of view!" [/sarcasm] Coppola is three for three now, making her one of the most important cinematic voices of our time. Picture number four is on its way. Can't wait.

27 Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) & Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
Some people think Tarantino's most purely cinematic double (DP Robert Richardson sure is gifted behind a camera, isn't he?) is disposable entertainment, all style no substance. But it might well be my favorite from his filmography, give or take Pulp Fiction. And though I found/find Vol. 2 a more traditionally talky Tarantino effort and therefore a slight letdown after the surprisingly visceral visual punch of Vol. 1... there's no beating its amazon vs. amazon showdown in a crowded trailer. "Bitch, you don't have a future."

26 Dogville dir. Lars von Trier (2003, released in 2004)
Lars von Trier's audacious parable was 178 gripping minutes of cinema... despite and also because it takes place on a bare stage. One of the most violent pictures I've ever seen. And there's not a drop of blood.

25 Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring dir. Kim Ki Duk (2003, released in 2004)
Simplicity and wonder... a peaceful profound tonic dropped in an ocean of violent pictures.

24 I Huckabees dir. David O. Russell (2004)
My favorite existential comedy of the decade. Unless you count Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So... yes, maybe the rebirth of the musical isn't the story of the movie decade but the creation of the existential comedy? Or has that been around since The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Or am I stretching the definition? 'The interconnection thing is definitely for real!'

23 The Wrestler dir. Darren Aronofsky (2008)
He made three pictures this decade and they're all on the list. Does that make him my favorite? It puts him up there at any rate. Even when people think he's down for the count (The Fountain) he gets back up for more. Rather like "Randy the Ram" albeit without the pathos. Aronofsky is only 40 years old. Many filmmakers start strong and fade. I hope he's just warming up.

22 Lost in Translation dir. Sofia Coppola (2003)
There is so much inside the movie worth loving: the pink panties, the karaoke, the rare star chemistry, the Cameron Diaz mimicry, the soulful ennui... but what I remember most vividly six years later, on that first encounter, was the afterglow. It was a cool evening and we'd missed the rain. Walking away from the theater, the streets were wet and reflective and I just kept looking around, absorbing the shimmering color and the skyscrapers. It wasn't Tokyo obviously but it felt rather like seeing New York again for the first time, like the movie had recharged my senses: Lance Acord was walking beside me as personal DP, Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray were whispering something profound in my ears.

21 No Country For Old Men dir. Coen Bros (2007)
The Coen Bros inexorable death march was thrillingly rendered and beautifully acted with Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin all at the peak of their powers. Bonus points for that audience confounding but pitch perfect black out ending. You really can't stop what's coming.

20 Volver dir. Pedro Almodóvar (2006)
I once started counting the kisses in this underappreciated wonder because I loved the loud smacking so much. I abandoned the kiss count after 15 minutes and 47 smooches but no matter. For no amount of P.D.A. can properly show my love for Raimunda (Penélope Cruz), her loud sister and their ghostly mother. I could kiss them thousands of times and you still wouldn't know how dear they are to me.

19 Before Sunset dir. Richard Linklater (2004)
"Baby, you're gonna miss that plane"

18 WALL•E dir. Andrew Stanton (2008)
Calling it the best animated film of the decade is a compliment of high order. There were abundant cartoon treasures all throughout the Aughts... including many that didn't make this list. Maybe that's the cinema story of the decade? I keep looking for one but there are hundreds of stories. I'll take them all. I don't understand people who always want their movies prepackaged in one or two genres. Give me ALL KINDS.

17 Y Tu Mamá También dir. Alfonso Cuarón (2001, released in 2002)
One of the greatest road trip movies. One of the greatest romantic triangles. One of the greatest sex comedies. One of the greatest coming of age dramas. One of the greatest. It's as magical as Boca del Cielo "Heaven's Mouth".

16 Entre Les Murs (The Class) dir. Laurent Cantet (2008)
The closest we come to a documentary on the list (I didn't include them for purity reasons -- all of these being regular feature films) since this film, reenacted/transferred/adapted (however you want to describe it) by many of its subjects from a book of the same name, feels so damn authentic. Hollywood loves to make films about teachers fighting to reach their students. I've never seen one this good before. It earns its hard won light by allowing for the shadows.



gabrieloak said...

I love I Heart Huckabees but I guess that one was too brainy for the general public. One more example of Hoffman's ability to choose interesting character roles for himself as he ages. Including Huppert was divine inspiration. I wish Wahlberg and Law and Watts made more comedies. Jude Apatow are you listening? And Lily Tomlln adds class to anything.

Amir said...

i still haven't seen 'beau travial' or 'i heart huckabees'.

Michael said...

Marie Antoinette is as refreshing a choice as it is ballsy. I'm kind of surprised by Volver coming in at number twenty, I was pretty certain it would have made your top ten.

OtherRobert said...

For me, the cinema story of the decade was the explosion of foreign horror in America. Sure, much was done through remakes, but the fact that America seemed to finally look outwards on a consistent basis and realize that other countries could make compelling, horrifying pictures was a revelation to many. This is the decade that brought us the terms J-Horror and K-Horror, British horror-comedies funnier than most Hollywood studio productions, and a battle for domination of brutal horror between Spain and France graced with some form of release by popular directors like Tarantino and Jackson; those are just the more accessible examples. Foreign horror reinvigorated the American horror landscape, allowing a new generation of horror auteurs to explore violence as a tool for supporting a narrative rather than an excuse to bypass narrative for violence. Mainstream Hollywood finally started to come around with wide releases of films like Orphan, Drag Me To Hell, Zombieland, and Paranormal Activity, which all have strong stories, defined characters, subtlety, and violence used effectively as a tool to generate substance.

Deborah said...

I'm loving your lists. I adore Marie Antoinette, I like your take-down of its critics. I'm with you on Volver as well, it's lush and lovely and far more focused, somehow, than many Almodovar movies.

I never warmed to Kill Bill, and I downright hated I Heart Huckabees, which rubbed me all kinds of wrong.

I've got to see Y Tu Mama Tambien again. I found it so-so at first but I think it needs a second look.

Mike C said...

Nate, I am enjoying your list tremendously - whether I agree with a selection or not.

I am very glad to see Y Tu Mama Tambien on your list as it is my favorite film of the decade. I must have watched it five times at this point and each time it brings tears of laughter and sadness - a rare feat for the same film.

Looking forward to the final 15!

Ryan Ray said...

Fantastic list! I can't really disagree with any of these. Volver and Kill Bill are 2 of my personal favorites. Of all time. I could also kiss them a thousand times.

Can't wait for your top 15

Dusty Hixenbaugh said...

Such a fun list. Here's hoping for Requiem for a Dream in the top ten!

NicksFlickPicks said...

I'm having such a good time seeing how your opinions of movies that we all know you love stack up against each other once they're all in the same "mix." I realize the specific rankings would shift if you wrote these up in a different week or month, but it's fun (and rare) to see how your favorites from one year stack up against the others.

Eager to see how the top bits shake out.

Robert said...

Great list. Five more shared with my personal top 50. Beau Travail, Dogville, I Heart Huckabees, No Country for Old Men, and WALL-E

Nate Tyson said...

Fantastic list so far, Nat!

I published mine on my blog a couple days ago, and [shocker!] we have a ton of overlap in our lists.

Great to see so many great cinematic treasures get their due.

Robert Hamer said...

Oh, may have lost the Oscar, but you're a champ in my eyes.

rosengje said...

Pout, I really wanted Before Sunset to crack the top 10. I somehow feel really invested in where my favorite movies end up on your list. As always, great selections.

Marshall1 said...

The list is getting better and better! Love The Class and Y Tu Mama, Before Sunset and so many others. I do find I *heart* Huckabees are bit too weird and confusing for me (not the good type of weird like Being John Malkovich). Can't wait for the upcoming choices!

Daniel H. said...

awesome list - agree with most choices, and always respect the ones i don't. thanks for the heads up on beau travail and spring summer... the greatest part of these lists is the gems they point us towards, once the ink has settled.

BTW - just saw 'a prophet', which crashes into my top 10 of the decade. It was officially released in France in October, and I aint waiting another ten years to celebrate this one. Astounding film-making on every level.

Arkaan said...

Daniel H, I feel the same way about A Prophet. More and more I'm getting irritated by release strategies, I agree - A Prophet for the Aughts.

Travis said...

Marie Antoinette, most misunderstood film of the aughts?

Not too sure about Coppola's next film though... The summary on imdb wasn't doin it for me.

David Giancarlo said...

I'm pretty sure I know the top 15. :D

Faux said...

I wonder if this Volver position means that Talk to Her make your top ten... But your list is absolutely great.
In my top ten will be for sure Brokeback Mountain, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Return, Sokurov's Father and Son & Mother and Son, Talk to Her or 2046.

Glenn Dunks said...

Of the films here I've seen the only one I didn't love was The Wrestler. Other than that, fabulous.

"One of the most violent pictures I've ever seen. And there's not a drop of blood."

I love that reading of it for some reason. Perhaps that's one of the reasons it was met with such anger. It made people feel rage within them, but didn't give them the catharsis of bloodletting.

adam k. said...

Should be pretty easy to predict the top 15 from here on out:

Dancer in the Dark
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
In the Mood for Love
Moulin Rouge!
Mulholland Dr.
Far From Heaven
Talk to Her
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Vera Drake (has that come up yet??)
Brokeback Mountain
A History of Violence
There Will Be Blood
and the LOTR trilogy.

Does LOTR count as one or three? Hmmm.

adam k. said...

Oh, and Rachel Getting Married, of course.

adam k. said...

So, assuming LOTR counts as only one, I'm one short and stumped. Any ideas?

adam k. said...

Oh, duh. Requiem for a Dream.

Tim said...

Late to the party, but I'm really loving your list, and especially the defenses you've been writing for each entry. I don't even like Marie Antoinette, and I still found that a completely awe-inspiring smackdown of its critics.

The Pretentious Know it All said...

I must say, looking at your list Nathaniel, that while I don't agree with a lot of your choices, it warms my heart to see no Eastwood here. Not a one. Maybe I'm just a Negative Nelly, but I'm really annoyed with him these days.

I rarely try to delve into the mind of the filmmaker and presume to know his or her intentions when making a film, even when I don't like it. But make no mistake--Clint Eastwood made "Invictus" to win awards. There's absolutely nothing about this film--how indifferently its directed and written, how little it tries to do more than scratch the surface of the politics, Eastwood's own political leanings--that leads me to believe otherwise.

To quote your own thoughts "It's so ham-fistedly unworthy of discussion." That's ALMOST true, except for the fact that even though he lost out on the DGA nomination, Eastwood may still usurp Lee Daniels spot as a best director nominee at the Oscars. Even if I hated "Precious", one can never call Daniels's direction indifferent or arbitrary. It's such a singular vision, even when it missteps and is certainly more worthy of accolades than Clint Eastwood's rugby game, practically in real time (WTF?). And I know that "Precious" is viewed as an overwrought melodrama worthy of Lifetime, whereas "Invictus" is a prestige picture. Even so, a good hamburger is better than a terrible steak. And "Precious" is a great, well-seasoned hamburger with all the fix-ins on a focaccia bun served on a fluorescent beige platter. "Invictus" is barely Outback Steakhouse.

I'm not one of those who thinks that Morgan Freeman is the best thing since sliced bread and I found this performance to be incredibly uneven and phoned in, as if he knew he would get an Oscar nomination no matter what. In his defense, he was right, so why even try? I know this rant borders on excessive, and of course "Invictus" is not the worst film of the year. But it's just so offensively pedestrian that the acclaim its receiving inspires rage in me not seen since the likes of "A Beautiful Mind" (also thankfully absent from this list).

I apologize for the length of this comment.

Rebecca said...

That scene from 'Volver' shows both why it ranks so high, and why Penelope Cruz deserved that Oscar nom...I was actually surprised when I saw an old friend this week and I said 'I didn't like Penelope Cruz, but then she really became amazing' and she put her hand on her heart and said (paraphrased) 'not me, I always thought she was great, they just didn't know what to do with her.'

Love 'I Heart Huckabees', 'The Wrestler', and 'The Class' (a movie I instantly wanted to rewatch a few times), and still must see 'Marie Antionette'.

Thank you for this rich list!


The Know Nothing -- no need to apologize for lengthy good hamburger type comments! I think much as you do in this case but I have been trying to not talk about INvictus *as much as i normally talk about Eastwood movies* because I really HAVE TO stop doing this for my sanity. It seems so obvious to me but every time people call him a "master" and throw awards at him. It's so boring.

Daniel H -- i love that "'you can't wait ten years to recognize A PROPHET' ;) I still haven't seen it. Boo.

Andrew R. said...

I'm STILL waiting for my films! AH! GETTING NERVOUS!

Yay on Kill Bill and WALLE, boo on Marie Antoinette. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but best of the decade? Nope.

Unknown said...

Adam K.! You're going to ruin the guessing game for the rest of us!

Anyway, the rankings have been shifting all through the decade list, so maybe we're in for a shock. Maybe Miss Potter enjoyed a revelatory re-watch!

Unknown said...

I love innovative biopics. Just not Marie Antoinette. Hated that film with a passion. Innovation at its worst.

But as this film is one of the VERY where you and I come in on polar opposites, I must say I'm loving this list and can't wait for the top fifteen...

adam k. said...

I was kind of hoping my predictions would lead to a discussion/prediction thread. I apologize if I ruined it for anyone who had no idea what to expect. But Nat is very vocal about about what he loves most, and it's easy to pick out those top few films each year that are likely to resurface here and haven't yet.

That's what I get for following this blog/site so closely all decide ; )

adam k. said...


how to download movies for free said...

I agreed with Travis. He well said : Marie Antoinette is the most misunderstood film of the aughts..And I love "I Heart Huckabees" very much ..