31 December 2009
Top 15 Films of the Millennium, Part II
Welcome back to final entry of the Decade, the TOP #7 - #1 FILMS OF THE MILLENNIUM. Now before we get into that, I want to take a moment and acknowledge a few films that I could never in good conscience place on any sort of critically good list but nevertheless give me an immense amount of personal satisfaction. These are mostly guilty pleasures for sure, but there's definitely some legitimacy to a handful. I will never fail to catch these on television and when I do, probably get a lot more enjoyment than some of the films on the official list. Here are my Top 15 Personal Favourites, in absolutely no order:
1. Beerfest (2006)
2. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
3. Grandma's Boy (2006)
4. Jackass Number Two (2006)
5. Dude, Where's my Car? (2000)
6. Snatch (2000)
7. Saving Silverman (2001)
8. Super Troopers (2001)
9. Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
10. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
11. Eurotrip (2004)
13. Pineapple Express (2008)
14. Funny People (2009)
15. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Now with that out of the way, let's get into the Top 7:
#7- Gladiator (2000)
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: David Franzoni, John Logan and William Nicholson
One of the first truly epic movies of the Millennium, Gladiator is full of moments both gradiose and intricate. Joaquin is in prime Bitch Mode and Russell fights around the world. That premise alone should elevate this movie to some lofty heights, but it's also about the excess and corruption of an empire, the love of a family and a man whose life suddenly transgresses from many purposes to one. Maximus is the man thoroughly and consistently, and lives only for personal righteous revenge, though a revenge that also proves to serve his empire and the honour it once held. He fights to regain this diginity of both himself and all of Rome that has been cast in the shadow of Bitch Commodus. It's pretty awesome, and whenever I get hammered I still end up quoting it today.
#6- Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
Directed by: Larry Charles
Written by: Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips
Absolutely offensive and jaw-dropping in every moment, Borat signaled a great moment in our comedic history. Infinitely quotable and racist, there was hardly a comedy this year that made me think or laugh more in theaters. Beyond the ignorance and racism it elicits from everyday Americans, the superficial "point" of the character, the film also plays with reality and narrative, by the end it's hard to know what exactly was real and faked without prior knowledge that say, for instance Sacha is good friends with Pam Anderson. It ends up being brilliant in its execution while maintaining an extremely high degree of hilarity, commitment to character as well as meaning. Much more so than Bruno.
#5- No Country for Old Men (2007)
Directed by: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Written by: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Nearly any Coen movie should be a strong contender for this list (maybe moreso Burn After Reading  and The Man Who Wasn't There  than Intolerable Cruelty  and The Ladykillers ). No Country gets it for going above and beyond revolutionizing character shield expectations to fit its metanarrative structure, updating the depressing Western and having a near perfectly cast and acted movie. Bardem's performance should go without saying by now as an extremely cunning and methodic artist beneath which lurks a soulless machine whose single purpose is killing. It's the kind of universal force they touched upon in Raising Arizona (1987), but without any of the cheeky Cage humour, which makes their point that much more intense. It's a depressing movie for sure but one that captures the spirit of a genuine American land, but one that we have not conquered yet.
#4- WALL-E (2003)
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Written by: Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon
Clearly the cutest movie on this list, WALL-E scores for innovations in storytelling (a wordless 40-minute intro through which nothing is miscommunicated), art (the most beautiful wasted Earth as well as Space that you'll ever see) and message (don't fuck up our home and get lazy - always present, never preachy in the film). Pixar's second entry on this list I know, but this is the superior film, and the best they've ever done. It's a very epic movie without ever feeling like one, part of that is through its humble voice cast (most famous is probably Sigourney Weaver, though unrecognizeable as the ship's Computer), the other part is through its great restraint in the character of WALL-E. He's continually cute and relatable while never being insufferable or unrealistic, which lets you believe and fall in love yourself with this Robot Love Tale. It's this fine line with its characters that Pixar always walks to more (Nemo) or less (Ratatouille ) success, WALL-E hit it perfect.
#3- The Departed (2006)
Directed by: Marty Scorsese
Written by: William Monahan
Scorsese's best film of the Decade, and maybe his career (probably not), The Departed is one of the very few instant classic films of the Millennium. Every moment is awesome. Baldwin loving the Patriot Act and then fighting his own incompetant asses, Wahlberg chews every word like a strip of prime bacon in his gums. Damon, DiCup, Sheener. That chick from Up in the Air (2009). Then Nicholson and Winstone acting like the sleeziest murderers this side of Gotham. Nicholson especially is just the epitome of bad taste, putresance and ruthlessness (making sexual advances on nuns, sitting in bars just drawing big-tittied women). There was no better cast movie this Decade than The Departed. The entire film is based in sequence rather than scene, an element Marty toyed with and used very well in Goodfellas (1990) but goes nuts with here. I know its a remake and whatever, I haven't seen the North Korean version and I never will, fuck that. The simple fact that when thinking about reviewing this in a paragraph I can think of ten sequences off the top of my head that are awesome enough to elevate it to a level beyond anyone else should serve my purpose. Let's settle with this one and call it a morning.
#2- There Will Be Blood (2007)
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
This film is by every standard a masterpiece. The layers are extremely complex, some of which may be debated here, my favourite being the discussion of the Third Relevation. Much more importantly, though, this movie lead to one of the most popular catch-phrases of the decade, "I drink your milkshake!" which of course gave us SNL sketches like the one above. Lovely. Frankly, that's the only criteria I'm concerned with enough to grant this film the #2 spot. Also Danny Day-Lewis is ok I guess. Tempted to see what Bill Hader could have done with the role.
#1: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Directed by: Pete Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Pete Jackson
I really decided to just cop out on this one, actually. RotK is good, sure, but why is it the best film of the Decade? Mostly because nearly everything about it is technically perfect. It represents a film achievement unlike anything that had come before it (not unlike AVABAR  really, but I've got my own feelings I shall soon share on the stupidness of AVABAR). I feel like it's been ignored on a lot of critics lists actually, so my choice might end up being controversial. Good. RotK is simply put, pretty fucking awesome. It's totally epic, but always classy and completely immersed in its own world. It's consistent, powerful and archetypal. Everything about it lines up correctly, from the tastefully utilized CGI to the fulfilling grand battle where everything about their world comes at stake. You never feel lost among the dozens upon dozens of characters and it wisely skips the shoddy "Saruman's Revenge" ending of the novel. It's important because it goes above and beyond its source material, influenced a ton of contemporary film makers, won an unprecedented (kindof) amount of awards and pointed the Decade in the direction it needed to go. It's also my way of summing up what the entire Lord of the Rings series meant for cinema during the early parts of the decade, and how good the totality of the three films really is. Now lets go get some milkshakes.
As a parting gift, I realise that I rely on this site far too much for good links, but it happens to have a handy pathway to many many other critic's lists, which is pretty neat. Check it out.