28 December 2009
Top 15 Films of the Millennium, Part I
Well my friends, it has been a long time coming now, but as the decade finally closes I present to you, the TOP 15 FILMS OF THE MILLENNIUM. Now, I should preface this list with a few quick notes: There's a ton of internet lists like this around this time of the Decade, most like this will get real real obscure, which may have some merit, but it's not quite my style to brag about a ton of films no one has ever seen (I will give The Playlist credit for making Anchorman #10 for 2004). That's not the best to me, it's necessary to incorporate some kind of cultural influence along with critical success along with personal enjoyment. There's a good amount of my own bias here, which is inherent to any list. Most critics seem to be too pretentious to admit this, but there is no "Official Best" list. Ever. I tried to simultaneously make this list have some obvious choices (there's reasons they should be obvious), along with a few curveballs, as usual.
Before we begin I wanted to present some other site's lists for a second. This is pretty all-encompassing with some absolutely bizarre selections in the Top 10 (Bourne Ultimatum  and Team America ? Really?). This from AP Critics is awful, who the hell knows what films they're talking about, but some picks are spot-on. Of all I've seen I probably like this one the best, its Top Ten is solid, although I wouldn't have placed any of them in that order. By far. Finally, I want to bring attention to this article, which does a phenomenally better job at discussing what I wanted to talk about here.
With that all said, let's get into THE LIST. For Part I I'll cover #15 - #8:
#15- The Dark Knight (2008)
Directed by: Chris Nolan
Written by: Chris and Jon Nolan and Dave Goyer
I didn't really want to rank the greatest Comic Book Movie of all time higher than this but it needs a spot on this list. It's one of the few instantly iconic films of this decade, resonant, thought-provoking and relevant. All from the genre that brought you Wolverine (2009). The Dark Knight proved that comic book movies could be good, if not excellent. Ledger's spectacular performance overshadows equally adept turns by Oldman, Eckhart and Caine but is truly mesmerizing. In terms of critical, commercial and cultural success, The Dark Knight exceeds most other films on this list, my personal anger over its lack of perfection and over-reliance on coincidence and massively strategic behavioural planning and management (looking at you, Heath. Of course to truly examine the Joker's possible series of Plan B's is probably due for another post) brings it down just slightly to only be at #15.
#14- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Directed by: Mike Gondry
Written by: Charlie Kaufman
Gondry and Kaufman, individual innovators, together produced one of the most originally intriguing films of this decade. It's a perfect look at a relationship in reverse with a great discussion of inevitability, science and love. The destinial love aspect is less forced than Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and a non-manic (for the most part) Jim Carrey is a delight. Winslet used this movie to prove she's not just that naked chick from Titanic (1997) while Elijah did some pretty cool non-Frodo stuff. It's a great film that shows that science can't fight love. I dig that.
#13- Gran Torino (2008)
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written by: Nick Schenk
Clint has had some great entries to the Decade Catalogue but Torino is by far his best. There is a certain amount of class throughout all his films, a way he demands respect and honour from his audience. Mostly I guess because we're all scared of Clint Eastwood and that is very apparent in this film. I already called Walt one of our greatest heroes, but in a world full of Disaster Movies(2008) and Squeakquels it was so refreshing to see this full of dignity and disgust for an idle generation. It's incredibly well scripted and acted, if not with its own problems.
#12- Memento (2000)
Directed by: Chris Nolan
Written by: Chris Nolan
Chris Nolan's second film in four spots, but it's worth it. Memento is one of the first total mind-fuck films I ever saw, and is one that grows with repeated viewings and a more rewarding good-twist ending than something like The Usual Suspects (1995). It will always be notable for being the backwards movie that turned out to actually be good, along with some statement about how much we trick ourselves into leading the lives that fulfill us instead of lives of truth. Interesting shit that is really about the false interpretation of facts and the simple notion that this world is very subjective. Loses some points for obviously being inspired by this Seinfeld episode. Truly could have used more Lollipop jokes.
#11- Almost Famous (2000)
Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Written by: Cameron Crowe
What does Rock and Roll mean? Well, who the hell knows but this film comes as close to any to answering that question. Is the greatest music in the history of time really about anything significant or is it really just chicks and drugs? Probably a little bit of both, but the film is full of these outrageous scenes along with intimate moments like the clip above. It's important to realise that despite the artistic contributions of many musicians (and filmmakers), most of their personal lives are absolute shit (as a direct result from the same fuel that drives them to art). It's important to get past mythology and understand that these people are just real human beings, a fact that the rockers do not understand themselves until late in the film. Great job Cam. Also Billy Crudup has the best Rockstar look ever.
#10- District 9 (2009)
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Written by: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
It's tough to say what the Best Film of 2009 was or what many of the films of 2009 will mean to cinema for the next couple years. I basically wrestled with this film and The Hurt Locker (2009) for a while, but decided that District 9 is the much more important film. This is pretty evident already with the pending deals for films like Panic Attack! (2009). District 9 is a relevant film without being overtly political, it is incredibly well-acted by first time actors, the effects are incredible on a modest budget and the character arcs are strong and determined. I have discussed this film at length here, but needless to say it is a fantastic cultural, critical and physical achievement on both its budget and nature.
#9- Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Directed by: Ang Lee
Written by: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana
The variety of Ang Lee's career is actually incredible. From Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) to Hulk (2003) to Taking Woodstock (2009), he knows almost no genre and is certainly underrated in general as a director. This is also the second Ledger film on this list, but he probably deserves more. There is so much restrained pain in his performance that rarely finds its way out. He's a man wholly formed by his environment, but whose soul doesn't belong. This movie is difficult to talk about in general however, due to of all the gay stuff. It's a fantastic film by all regards and was robbed of Best Picture, but at the same time it seems awkward inviting over like six dudes on a Saturday night to chill out and watch Brokeback Mountain. It's a tough film about coming to terms with oneself and suffering through a love that's unwanted and completely discouraged in a society. It also spawned a tremendous amount of parody that is still awesome (if not unnerving) to sift through today.
#8- Finding Nemo (2003)
Directed by: Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
Written by: Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds
Nemo is one of the most endearing films of this decade. It's adorable while never being cheeky or cutesy, and simple without ever being dumb. It's a fine line that Pixar just nails on this one, and really hadn't pulled off since until Wall-E (2008). It its heart is the relationship between father and son, but it's about much more than that. Trusting your family members to make the best decisions are difficult as is being a safe parent without smothering. The film never really slams you with its metaphors and its story is compact and streamlined. Hank Scorpio does a great voice job and the visuals are beautiful. Top-notch animation in an exciting variety of environments here.
Phew. That's half of the greatest films of the past ten years here. Stay tuned later this week when I reveal #7 - #1!