Tuesday, September 06, 2011

100 Favorite Films of the Decade: 80-61

80. Speed Racer (2008, directed by the Wachowski Brothers)

Yes, it's a candy-colored cartoon with live actors. That doesn't sound like a strike against it to me. I love this movie because it so resolutely is what it is; it's drawn in broad strokes, given a convoluted plot with some pretty genuine character moments, and creates a self-contained world that's visually exciting and completely senseless. I love everything about, even the actors I don't normally like.

79. Frailty (2002, directed by Bill Paxton)

What Bill Paxton no longer has to offer the world as an actor (Big Love just killed him for me), he makes up for as a director. I hope he's got more films in him (his other film, The Greatest Game Ever Played, nearly also made this list). This is one of a small number of horror films I saw this decade that I thought were rather brilliant, showing us a father's religious fervor through the eyes of his terrified son.

78. About Schmidt (2002, directed by Alexander Payne)

For two hours, this film unfolds as though it were just a quirky comedy about a lonely, widowed retiree trying to make it to his daughter's wedding. It's the final minutes that really turn his journey into something of real importance, and give meaning to the whole picture. This film earned the tears it got from me.

77. The Lives of Others (2006, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)

This film's strength is its subtlety. The details build and build as we watch a Stasi officer coldly monitor the cultural scene in East Germany. But as he begins to sympathize with the people he's surveilling, begins to identify them, and gradually connects with emotions and desires long put aside, an essential humanity begins to break from the shackles of bureaucracy. That makes The Lives of Others sound rather more heroic than it is, but small triumphs are also worth celebrating.

76. The Bourne Identity (2002, directed by Doug Liman)/The Bourne Supremacy (2004, directed by Paul Greengrass)

I guess these two movies are sort of like the action version of The Lives of Others. It's the story of another man who has had his humanity removed and been turned into an unfeeling instrument of the state, who suddenly reconnects with it. I guess this is a favorite theme of mine. The movies are also exciting as hell.

75. Gone Baby Gone (2007, directed by Ben Affleck)

Just a solid, character-driven crime thriller that took me by surprise. The performances in this movie are surprising (how nice to see Morgan Freeman play a complex character again instead of just being asked to repeat his role from The Shawshank Redemption), and the way it's constructed is just riveting.

74. My Life Without Me (2003, directed by Isabel Coixet)

An utterly heartwrenching film about a woman with two months to live who keeps it to herself. Rather than make the last two months of her life pure pain for everyone around her, she decides to just live it as best as she can and in the way she's always wanted. In choosing life over a preparation for death, she makes some touching discoveries about herself and ponders the hole she's going to leave in the lives of her loved ones, particularly her young daughters. Sarah Polley is incredible in this movie.

73. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, directed by John Cameron Mitchell)

As I said when I saw it, seeing this movie was like hearing Ziggy Stardust for the first time. This film transcended itself, turning a story about a transsexual singer into a contemplation of love, harmony, sexuality, gender, failure, success, and responsibility. And all set to such divine music. It's a glam search for wholeness, and it is just beautiful.

72. The Spirit (2008, directed by Frank Miller)

Boy, things got really contentious with this one. But what I saw was a funny, quirky, stupid movie that I enjoyed the hell out of. The cartooniness of it, the silliness, the intentionally hilarious performances, the fun ham of the whole endeavor... honestly, this is pretty much how I remember Will Eisner's comic (though the movie has a lot less racial caricaturing). I know it's not a "cool" movie, but it's one of my favorites.

71. Signs (2002, directed by M. Night Shyamalan)

The only one of Shyamalan's films I even remotely like. I don't know, this is another one that gets bashed, but I guess I don't see what everyone else does. I think this is the one that works, even down to the twist ending--primarily because the plot doesn't depend upon that twist for the story to function. It's about a man's search for faith and how he finds it, but it's also a thrilling, scary movie for a kid who grew up reading stories about "real" UFO encounters and scaring himself too badly to sleep.

70. The Notorious Bettie Page (2005, directed by Mary Harron)

I like how observant this film is, how it regards pornography as a sort of innocent outlet, and how joyful and carefree Gretchen Mol's performance is. It doesn't take a point of view that nudity or pornography is bad or wrong; it also doesn't defend it. Instead, it looks at the experiences of a woman who much later had the label of pioneer put on her by others. The conclusions drawn by the audience aren't manipulated by the movie; I still find that more mature than being taught a specific lesson.

69. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005, directed by Garth Jennings)

No, it's not exactly everything Douglas Adams wrote, but who cares? To me it preserved the flavor and the characters while giving it a story arc and being damn entertaining (and with excellent special effects). If anything, I think the earlier scenes in the movie are too slavishly devoted to Adams (always the same tedious set-up in every incarnation of this story), but once everyone's aboard the Heart of Gold the story really gets moving. It's more Galaxy Quest than, well, whatever fanboys wanted it to be, but I liked that movie, too. And I dug Sam Rockwell as Zaphod. I just did. Dude used to be funny.

68. Sin City (2005, directed by Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller)

In what I'm probably going to be calling in the future the Last Good Robert Rodriguez Movie (he used to make an actual effort), he and a very talented cast capture the look, the feel, and the story of one of my favorite comic books. No more, no less.

67. Justice League: The New Frontier (2008, directed by Dave Bullock)

A fine example of what both DC Comics and the movies based on them can be, and yet neither has managed to achieve.

66. The Cove (2009, directed by Louis Psihoyos)

One of the most moving documentaries of recent years, and one of the hardest to watch. Never have I seen both man's barbarous savagery and man's resolute stupidity laid out more starkly. Not only to slaughter dolphins, but to willingly poison people--even children--in the name of profit is inexcusable and a good indicator of why I've stopped expecting humanity to survive.

65. Good Night, and Good Luck (2005, directed by George Clooney)

Another tale about man's incomprehensible stupidity, this time directed at the media. A fine dramatization of Edward R. Murrow's stand against Senator McCarthy, it serves as both an example of how journalists should behave, and a reminder of just how much this country has lost since corporations took control of the media.

64. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004, directed by Adam McKay)

(Yes, Douglas, I can hear your eyes rolling from here.) This set the template for the new school of comedy. Well, maybe Old School did, but this perfected it. Looking back on the decade's comedies, this was pretty much the peak of how good and how funny these films could get. Unfortunately, what happened is that Will Ferrell just tried poorly to remake this flick a half-dozen times, and the filmmakers became reluctant to edit much out of what is now a plague of overlong comedies. But this one never fails to make me laugh; it's just the right amount of absurd.

63. Osama (2003, directed by Siddiq Barmak)

A bleak, hopeless film that paints a stark, uncompromising picture of man's inhumanity. The film follows a 12 year-old girl in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan who disguises herself as a boy in order to survive and help support her family. It's not for this film to try and paint a picture of hope where there is none; it is simply what was and, sadly, though the names of the regime change, what is. Again we see how young girls are the most vulnerable and the most maligned members of any society.


62. Up (2009, directed by Pete Docter)

I overlook the predictable flourishes of the adventure plot in favor of what always strikes me hardest in this film, which is its unforced poignancy. Not just in the character of Carl Fredricksen and his need to do right by his late wife, but in the character of Russell, a child of divorce who is sunny and gushing in his desire to be helpful to somebody. From the fantastic imagery of a house being floated away by balloons to the touching vocal performances, I love this movie.

61. Swimming Pool (2003, directed by Francois Ozon)

A sub-Hitchcockian thriller, I love how this movie puts reality and fantasy on the same plane and then leaves the ending ambiguous. How much is reality, how much isn't? Does it even matter? Not when the story and the performances as good as they are here, and the suspense is so compelling.

5 comments:

Matt said...

I gotta watch Gone Baby Gone again. I just re-watched The Town this weekend and I gotta say: Ben Affleck has turned into quite an entertaining director.

Signs is fairly entertaining with some good suspense and acting but, ugh, that ending. Even dumber than Spielberg's War Of The Worlds.

I love Sin City and I hope the (long delayed) sequel will be just as good.

The Cove has been sitting in my Neflix queue for a while now. Maybe I should get motivated and watch it.

Anchorman is one of the funniest movies ever made. Endlessly quotable and still hilarious and surprising every time I watch it. In my opinion, it's Will Ferrell's finest comedy (although Stranger Than Fiction is also incredible... but it's a whole different type of comedy in that one).

Everything (okay, almost everything) Pixar does is astounding. Up is a masterpiece.

Oh, Swimming Pool. That Ludivine... :D

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

'Swimming Pool' is sexual noir that you can't look away from. Then Ludivine made a Peter Pan movie where she was Tinkerbell and, well, I was pretty much done at that point.

'Up' is very sweet. Doug the dog should have his own spin-off cartoon like the one they made for 'Lilo and Stitch'.

I still love M.Night's 'Unbreakable'. Such a cool, bleak graphic novel. "They called me MR GLASS!" The moment when Bruce Willis pushes the newspaper at his son so the kid can read that he was right about his father all along, still gives me the good kind of chills. I am having them now just thinking about it.

I wish I could watch 'The Cove' but I already have too many things in this world that enrage me. I know exactly what my reaction to watching it would be. They have a convert already. I don't need to see anymore slaughter to know that it happens and that I hate it.

'Frailty' is the reason I hate Mathew Mc - he can be so good in this kind of material that he transcends the craft of acting. Then he makes a rom com with Kate Hudson.

Christiana Ricci was born just so she could be in 'Speed Racer'. It's one of those fixed points in time that even the Doctor doesn't mess with.

'Sin City' is as magnificent and gruesome as I hoped it would be. Mickey Rourke has a lifetime free pass from me for his role as Marv. Absolutely iconic. I wish they could do 'Dark Knight Returns' in this exact style. I see such potential in the technology that made this film possible.

Caffeinated Joe said...

Saw only a few of these, and out of them, I think "Up" was the best. :)

SamuraiFrog said...

Matt: I never found the ending of Signs to be particularly stupid. The complaint I hear the most is "Why would the aliens go to a world with so much water if water can kill them?" and I always say "Why do those guys do what they do on Deadliest Catch if it's so dangerous?" Hunting isn't a cakewalk.

Cal: I loved Ludivine as Tinker Bell. She was talking about how she was going to play it innocent, and it just made it more sexual somehow... of course, that version of Peter Pan is pretty darn full of sexual overtones...

I think Shyamalan ruins the ending of Unbreakable for me with the word crawl. If it had just been "They called me Mr. Glass" it would've been perfect, but something about imposing realism on it just killed it for me.

Joe: Up was on one of the movie channels a lot last year and I would always get so involved in it and have to watch the whole thing (despite actually owning it on DVD). I would always think I was just going to watch that opening, and then...

MC said...

"I think Shyamalan ruins the ending of Unbreakable for me with the word crawl. If it had just been "They called me Mr. Glass" it would've been perfect, but something about imposing realism on it just killed it for me."

Thank you. That is my exact opinion. It makes me hate the whole rest of the movie.