May 13, 2009

Apropos of Nothing: The Ten Best Movies of the Decade

I first became aware of this in a comments thread at SOME CAME RUNNING, but why jump into the fray there when I can start my own fray here?

Recently, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE critic Mick LaSalle (who I must admit I'm unfamiliar with outside his admission in the bonus features of last year's Godfather box set that he doesn't understand the plot of Part II) posted his (premature) Top 10 list of the Aughties' best films. It reads like so:

1. The New World
2. 25th Hour
3. The Lives of Others
4. The Best of Youth
5. Before Sunset
6. Downfall
7. The Pianist
8. Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days
9. After the Wedding
10. (tie) Almost Famous; Bridget Jones's Diary; The Dreamers; In the Cut; Match Point; V for Vendetta
I presume that no one here would agree with all of those choices--what I'm curious about is whether we would all agree with any of those choices. I feel confident that my own list would include 25th Hour, but then I'm under the influence of "True Blood", which I'm finally catching up with on Blu-ray.
As a postscript, we just began posting Jefferson's SIFF capsules.


DaveA said...

Let me be the first to say "too soon!".

But anyway... yes, I could live with 25th Hour on such a list. The rest? Not so much.

Much more important: there are still season boxes from Wire, Big Love and Rome staring at me, demanding to be watched - should I just ignore them and order True Blood already? Decisions, decisions...

Kyle Puetz said...

There's only one movie that immediately warrants inclusion on my list: Children of Men. The rest I'd have to think about.

Special recognition should go to Ki-duk Kim and Charlie Kauffman, for having at least three films that merit consideration, at the very least.

Jefferson said...

Coincidence that two out of 15 films bring the Paquin? A mark of quality!

PS: While Cannes is the biggest filmfest in the world, SIFF is the biggest in the U.S. More films than Sundance, Tribeca, you name it.

Bill C said...

Eek--yeah, didn't mean that to read like a SIFF dis; what a great festival it is, truly. Chalk it up to Cannes envy, but I'm gonna go ahead and edit myself anyway.

Jefferson said...

Sorry, Bill, I meant that more as an FYI for readers. Didn't mean to imply that I felt slighted on the fest's behalf. SIFF really is kind of a stepchild -- big, yes, with almost 400 films, but also coming practically at the end of the North American filmfest calendar. A lot of the stuff screening here was previously premiered (and acquired by studios) at Toronto, Sundance, et al.

brandon curtis said...

I am in total agreement with "Downfall" but must admit that a second viewing of "25th Hour" is long overdue. I'd like to know if everything in the ten slot is a joke otherwise he's given up on the decade.

DaveA said...

Downfall? I could not agree less. But at least it spawned one of the best critical pieces of the decade, namely Wim Wenders' scathing attack on the movie. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem there exists a translation, but for anyone understanding a little German:

J. Schnaars said...



Seriously, this list blows my mind, and not in a good way. I'll admit to not having seen several of these films, but I still feel pretty confident in saying this is the craziest list I've ever read! (Are we going to mix it up in these comments or what?)

Of the above, the only film that would DEFINITELY make my top 10 would be The Lives of Others. Actually have not seen 25th Hour, but all the love here has convinced me to rectify that situation.

Number one on the personal top 10: Adaptation.

Anonymous said...

25th hour? really? i agree with walter when he admits he didn't give it the credit it deserved, but it wouldn't even make a top 50 for me.

there's a whole lot of stuff i still need to catch up on, but i reckon synecdoche new york, mulholland drive & no country for old men are dead certs. stuff like dogville, millennium actress, there will be blood, jesse james and keane would be in the running for me as well.


Joe said...

While none of these choices would mirror my own top ten, these are really interesting picks. My heart stopped for a moment when I thought I saw "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" on the list at first - that would really be worthy of mockery. I'll never understand the affection some have for In the Cut and V For Vendetta. As for shoo-ins, Adaptation (or one of the other Kaufman movies), There Will Be Blood, and Pan's Labyrinth come to mind.

Is True Blood worth a blind buy?

B said...

Off-topic, but worth pointing out:

"Slumdog star's home is demolished"

Jefferson said...

V For Vendetta ties for 10th, but not Dark Knight?

jer fairall said...

V For Vendetta > The Dark Knight.

Also, happy that *someone* remembers Before Sunset. The Dreamers, Match Point and especially Bridget Jones' Diary are indeed mystifying but this list is eccentric enough on the whole that, to me at least, it bears the mark of a true film fan. I'm not otherwise familiar with him either, but on the basis of this I'm willing to conclude that he's cool.

Pobojc said...

Really jazzed when anyone gives major kudos to "The New World". Easily one of my favorites of the last decade. Ditto "Before Sunset". "Mulholland Dr.", "Far from Heaven", "No Country for Old Men", "Pan's Labyrinth", "There Will Be Blood", "The Dark Knight", "Synecdoche, New York" and "A History of Violence" all in the running. Of course, countless runners-up. Po

slars said...

I would like to throw Kill Bill on any list of the decades best films.

BLH said...

I've struggled to make my own such list too many times already. I will say that most incarnations include Punch-Drunk Love, In the Mood for Love, Birth, The New World, and Spider. The rest is a matter of jamming 30 films into 5 spots.

And The Lives of Others? Really?

That one is scrubbed free of everything that made German films interesting in the heyday of the NGC.

Anonymous said...

1. Pan's Labyrinth
2. No Country for Old Men
3. Children of Men
4. A History of Violence
5. There Will Be Blood
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
7. The Departed
8. The New World
9. The Dark Knight
10. Into the Wild (sure to be argued against, but the damned thing's viral)

Bill C said...

@Joe: O'John or someone else could probably answer that better, as I'm only halfway through the series, but so far so good--there are already individual moments I can see myself revisiting at a later point in time, and I don't just mean all the titty scenes. And if you have Blu-ray, it's a real treat for the eyes and ears, much more so than any TV show I've yet seen on the format. (Even "Lost".)

O'JohnLandis said...

I'm glad someone else posted an organized list. Here's mine:

1. No Country for Old Men
2. Talk to Her
3. Hero
4. Dogville
5. Ghost World
6. Ratatouille
7. Spirited Away
8. Changing Lanes
9. Oldboy
10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

It hurt not to consider Capturing the Friedmans, Grizzly Man, or King of Kong, but I've decided it's wrong to compare documentaries and fiction films. I don't think that's a particularly controversial opinion, so I don't see the need to explain it in detail, but let's just say that despite this view, I'd respect the hell out of someone with the guts to say that Capturing the Friedmans is one of the ten best films ever made.

25th Hour? Totally plausible for one of these lists. Even if The Influence of the Paquin is leading me to overrate the B story, the A story is still pretty strong.

As for True Blood, even if you agree with its detractors, it still seems like the New Religion to me. I mean, comparing it to something like Twilight is just a joke, so as far as I'm concerned, it's the vampire fiction of record in a time when vampire fiction is pretty relevant. And in a TV landscape that's post-Sopranos, post-Deadwood, post-Wire, post-West Wing, it's a big, bright, shining star. Is it a soap? Who cares. Has anyone actually watched Grey's Anatomy lately? Somehow it beat the odds and managed to lower its own bar and embarrass television in new and exciting ways. For poker fans, it hit a runner-runner straight of humiliating bullshit.

True Blood's last episode isn't great and it had one other transitional episode that had a lame tone--maybe the seventh?--but there's some pretty exhilarating television there. The show isn't set in Louisiana to drench us with southern whimsy or bludgeon us with grim post-Katrina nihilism; it's set in Louisiana to drench us with the lusty thrill of a lost world right down the interstate. And honestly, if you give me supporting characters as interesting as Eddie and Amy, I don't care if the main characters are upstaged. It's better than House, in which you have a powerhouse main character and have to contrive methods to weaken him. True Blood's second season might fail, but it won't be because they didn't leave Sookie with anywhere to go.

So yeah, I love the show, and that's despite the blatant emotional manipulation of Paquin/Caplan nudity. Oh, The Class, how I miss you.

Kyle Puetz said...

If documentaries are a different beast, then I'd submit that these are the best docs I've seen over the last decade:

1 Capturing the Friedmans
2. Grizzly Man
3. War Photographer
4. Forbidden Lie$
5. Big River Man
6. Control Room
7. The Way We Get By
8. My Kid Could Paint That
9. Man on Wire
10. Up the Yangtze

By the by, if anybody has the opportunity to catch Forbidden Lie$, despite its horribly stupid title, you should go for it. It's hard not to enjoy a movie that takes such avid pleasure in fucking with its audience. The film really mirrors its subject in structure.

Alex Jackson said...

I'll refrain from posting my own as I'm working on coming up with a top 100 of all time and I'm betting that a quarter to a fifth of those titles will be from this decade.

But even in seeing only nine out of the sixteen on the LaSalle list I feel comfortable in saying that it's painfully middlebrow. I'm beginning to think that my tastes in film are permanently arrested in adolescence; but I mean Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Alfonso Cuaron. I can't really connect with any "Best of 00s" list that doesn't represent any of their work.

I take it as an objective fact that Y Tu Mama Tambien is better than The Dreamers.

And also in regards to documentaries, I really dig recent Errol Morris but don't as much dig recent Werner Herzog. The Fog of War has a very good chance of making one of my best of lists.

Dogmandont said...

In no order:

The New World
Finding Nemo
O Brother Where Art Thou?
Punch-Drunk Love
I'm Not There
Children of Men
The Aviator
The Royal Tenenbaums
The White Diamond


O'JohnLandis said...


1. Capturing the Friedmans
2. Grizzly Man
3. King of Kong
4. My Kid Could Paint That
5. Control Room
6. Man on Wire
7. Bowling for Columbine
8. DiG!
9. Street Fight
10. The Yes Men

I take it as an objective fact that Y Tu Mama Tambien is better than The Dreamers.I'm going to remember you said that. I mean, I agree of course, but still.

jer fairall said...

Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Alfonso Cuaron. I can't really connect with any "Best of 00s" list that doesn't represent any of their work.

The Kill Bills, The Royal Tenenbaums, There Will Be Blood, Lost in Translation plus Y Tu Mama Tambien *and* Children of Men would all be on my long list, with at least four of those most likely making my top ten, so yeah.

Documentaries? I like Grizzly Man and End of the Century (has *anyone* seen this one?!) as much as any fiction film from this decade. Odd, perhaps, that neither of those are political films in this, the decade of the political doc, though I'm also a big fan of The Power of Nightmares, Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11. Very embarrassed to say that I've still yet to see Capturing The Friedmans.

Rick said...

I found the underrated DiG! to be much more trickier of a thing than just an entertaining and ambitious band rivalry documentary for which it was summed up and dismissed as. It was the first time in a film I have ever really seen NOT selling out being completely devalued, portraying the true root of that road taken being personal self-destruction, and having very little to do with integrity.

Rick said...

With similar themes as what I mentioned above, would anyone throw Overnight in their top 10?

Rick said...

Top 10 documentaries that is.

Bill C said...

Okay, I'm officially dying to see ANTICHRIST.

O'JohnLandis said...

Rick, it's funny you should ask. I was having trouble deciding between Overnight and The Yes Men for my 10 slot. I ended up going with Yes Men for two reasons, only one of which is really lame.

1) I saw Overnight already having seen and hated Boondock Saints, and it led me to think that seeing Boondock Saints first is pretty much a requirement for seeing Overnight. As awful as Troy Duffy comes off in Overnight, if the art was better, it'd change the impact of the documentary. I am, even though it makes me uncomfortable to say it, a Quentin Tarantino fanboy. But if I had to spend five minutes with the QT of the True Romance commentary track, I'd probably want to cause him physical harm. Troy Duffy is a tool, but if he had talent, I'd probably advise him to go for the money/glory. There are a lot of shitty directors, but there aren't many films like Overnight. Maybe I can't articulate my exact concern, and certainly it doesn't stop me from enjoying and respecting the film, but Overnight seems a little unfair in a way that DiG!--despite similar themes--does not.

2) I randomly ran into one of the directors of The Yes Men at a bar in New York. Good times.

Ryan said...

So can we expect a Terminator-themed homepage some time tonight, Bill?

Bill C said...

Sorry to disappoint, but no. I just can't find the will. Walt's review is up though and will get a main page link this afternoon.

Jefferson said...

Apropos of Terminator, here's Drew McWeeny on why nerds are getting what they deserve from Hollywood.

Dan said...

A propos of nothing much: am I the only one being driven slowly but surely up the wall by that freakin' Ellen DeGeneres audio on the mothersite?

Bill C said...

Mea culpa, but I literally can't get rid of it; small consolation, but there IS a mute button on the ad itself and I strongly recommend using it.

@Jefferson: That editorial was the best thing he's ever written, maybe. Couldn't agree with it more.

Rick said...

I believe one of the Yes Men is a professor at RPI in Albany, which happens to be my home town. And the Yes Men are coming out with another movie this year, though I have heard nothing about it really. The other film I have heard nothing about (which is coming out this year) is Boondock Saints 2, which is shocking because I thought the call for Pulp Fiction rip-offs died along time ago. But The Ten was somehow made, and I thought irony made by self-hating people died along time ago, too. It must be the misanthropic group of apes passed off as cult fans who got Boondock 2 made. I would rather consecutively watch the whole series of Arli$$ than watch the new Boondock, or old one for that matter. I'm not sure which fans I hate more, Boondock fans or Family Guy fans.

Dan said...

Do those in-site promotions HAVE to autoplay, though, Bill?

Sorry for going a bit OT here, but I'm actually a little amazed Terminator 4 is getting such bad reviews. I suppose I had misplaced faith in Christian Bale's ability to sniff out a good project, as he's usually a good judge. Seems he took the cash and ran?

And... I get the impression that the emphasis on Marcus is an unfortunate remnant of an early draft of the script -- which would have ended with Connor dead and Marcus being wrapped in Connor-like skin to assume his identity. A terrible idea, but I suppose that's why Marcus is the main character.

Bill C said...

As I said, Dan: beyond my control; the player is extremely limited in its customization options, and I can't afford to otherwise ditch it.

Anyway, it looks like they've finally rotated her out.

Jefferson said...

Rick: The Yes Men Save the World screens at SIFF this year, but I managed to miss the press showing. I hope to catch up with it later in the festival.

Kyle Puetz said...

I wasn't the biggest fan of The Yes Men, but this one is appreciably worse. It's directed by the Yes Men themselves, and the added self-indulgence is pretty self-evident. As I wrote elsewhere, imagine Borat if Sacha Baron Cohen suspended his act every five minutes to self-righteously wax about how xenophobic and condescending and generally terrible the general populace of the United States is, and you might have a good idea of how annoying this movie is.

Dan said...

Once again - a propos of nothing: a request for the mothersite! What I would just love to see go up in addition to the current 'must-own list' of four-star reviews would be a similar listing of zero-star assessments. Not only do these reviews often represent the choicest (certainly the funniest) pieces of writing on the site, but I must confess to a strong weakness for transendentally awful movies: I watched 'Exorcist II: The Heretic' on the strength of Bill's hilarious review, and have purchased several movies (e.g. Top Gun, Catwoman, King Solomon's Mines) after reading reviews or offhand disparaging remarks from Bill and/or Walter here.

Bill C said...

@Dan: We'll definitely take that under advisement. There's actually a redesign of the mothersite on the way, no ETA, but sorting by star rating is an attractive-sounding option.

For what it's worth, that EXORCIST II review reads a little anti-intellectual to me now, and I kinda regret writing it. The fact that it inspired you to watch it fills me with sadistic glee, though.

Dan said...

If the conversation has moved onto suggestions for the mothersite... well, as a bigger TV-watcher than moviegoer, I've often hoped FFC would delve into TV shows more often. I know you do occasional box-set reviews (oddly never star-rated, why?), so maybe these can be listed separately somewhere?

Even better if you became "Film & TV Freak Central" and stretched to reviewing TV with the same level of professionalism. The likes of Mad Men and Breaking Bad are regualarly more worthy of review than the week's film releases, imo.

Patrick said...

Dan: I actually think the original script would have been a very good idea, Connor dying or no. Having John Connor being nothing more than a voice on the radio, albeit *the* voice of the rebellion, would have been a good way to cover new ground for the franchise instead of just pooping over what still is maybe the best one-two-punch of films (surely one of the best) with Terminator and Terminator 2. What I've heard from the new film sounds simply terrible (aside from competent action sequences), and also that Mr. Bale has insisted on quite a few script changes himself.

As for True Blood, I think the show has a great opportunity if it now dissolves itself from the novel canon, because Sookie having sex with a slew of supernatural creatures, from other vampires to werewolves and so on could really derail the show, I am afraid, and truly make it into Gray's Anatomy with Teeth.

Dan said...

@Patrick. Sorry, but killing John Connor and replacing him with the Marcus cyborg in John Connor skin would have been simply awful. It would have completely invalidated the previous movies, too. You could never watch T1-3 again without balking at the fact the fabled "future saviour of mankind" John Connor just ISN'T that person. It's a new character introduced in T4. Bleugh! Thank God they changed it. Just a shame they didn't have the time to rewrite the whole script, so Marcus' role is still more prominent than Connor's.

Patrick said...

Well, I was mostly talking about simply not focusing on Connor. I'm sure though that having a veterinarian assistant in a post-apocalyptic world perform a heart transplantation was the way better idea.

Walter_Chaw said...

Who told you that the action sequences were competent?

Jefferson said...

Dan, everything you describe about the scrapped T4 ending makes me think that's the better movie.

Patrick said...

Well, Vern said, »Whatever its other problems are, the action scenes in this movie are A+«, and the Now Playing Podcast (not exactly high art critics, but still) also said the action was competent.

Though I am perfectly willing to believe otherwise with the Scottish Letterman McG.

slars said...


There is a trailer for the Herzog version of Bad Lieutenant starring Nick Cage and Val Kilmer floating around on the internet...

Alex Jackson said...

I thought the action sequences in Terminator: Salvation were terrific and were well above merely "competent". I fear I'm badly overmatched when judging things like this however and look forward to somebody like Matt Zoller Seitz doing an A/B comparison of McG's action sequences with that of a "competent director".

It isn't just that he avoids over-editing, which in a nutshell seems to be the complaint when talking about the aesthetic deficiency of J.J. Abrams with Star Trek and MI 3 or Christopher Nolan with the Dark Knight; he seems to have a lot of fresh visual ideas. There's a great shot early on the film, where John Connor's helicoptor goes down and we see this from inside the vehicle. When he gets out he's upside down and the camera has to readjust.

Anonymous said...

so when do we get walter's 3,5/4 star review of UP?

Walter_Chaw said...

They did that POV helicopter crash in CLOVERFIELD didn't they? Blackhawk Down? I dunno' - thought the action sequences were dull in T4 mainly because I didn't care all that much about what was happening and to whom. They also buggered internal logic - how is it that those people in the gas station couldn't hear Megatron "sneaking" up on them in the middle of the desert?

Anonymous said...

This looks fantastic. Get it while its hot: