I’ve watched more movies in the last ten years than I did in the previous 26. Closer to the truth is that I’ve watched more movies each of the last ten years than I did in all the previous 26. I don’t know that I’m the better for it – often, I’m certain that I’m the worst – but for what it’s worth, doing this professionally has forced me to reassess notions of enjoyment. I got into this business because I love movies, see, and this business has demonstrated to me that the majority of movies are fucking awful. There’s nothing to describe the feeling of the first five minutes of a terrible film. It’s astonishing not because those five minutes are that bad, right, but because they hold the promise of an additional 85 awful minutes. It’s very much like going to the dentist. You’re not going to have fun. The best you can hope for is that you don’t bleed much.
The first couple of years of doing this, I saw everything. The last couple, I did my best to see very little. The thing I loved has become a job that I only love sometimes.
But maybe that’s not a bad thing. Not being able to be selective in what I see has made me more grateful for the things that are great. I had a conversation just today with a friend who said to me that the majority of movies that I talk about the most are movies that she’d never heard of before. I didn’t know that. I didn’t realize how much of an immeasurable gift it was to be able to see all the stuff that you don’t get to see; see? You get the list of every little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in every place you’ll ever visit and you let McDonalds and Chilis take care of themselves.
I like the analogy. You can write reviews of Burger King until chimps fly out of your ass, but you’re never going to change anyone’s mind about anything and, more, it’s truly questionable that you’re telling them something that they don’t know already. You’re only really in deep water, right, if you call Burger King misogynistic, racist, or only for retards. Hard lessons to learn. Oh well, you were never going to be friends with Burger King, anyway, am I right?
Something else, though, that happens is that from a certain vantage, you’re afforded the opportunity to glimpse who you were a few years ago: what your values were and your tastes, and most, in the words of Ani DiFranco of all people, assess your stretch marks to see how you’ve grown. With that – here goes a reassessment of the top tens since 2000 (I’m cheating on the first year; wasn’t writing then) with new lists, ending with a top ten for the decade that, you know, I actually think should begin in 2001 and end in 2010, but there you have it.
So here's the list for 2000 - look for a list a day, a year a day, then the best of 2009 at the mutha-site then ending back here at the blog with a best of the aughties master-list of ten.
Parentheses denote former rank (if any).
10. Red Planet
9. O Brother Where Art Thou?
8. George Washington
6. Dancer in the Dark
5. Claire Dolan
4. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
3. Waking the Dead
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
I love Lynne Ramsay’s films – there’s a real and savage beauty to them that feels entirely unlike the way that men imagine youth and hardship. Compare her (and favorably) to Ken Loach. In ten years, she’s only made two films, both amazing: Ratcatcher at the head of this year, here, and then Samantha Morton in the curiously uplifting Morvern Callar in 2002. She joins the tiny sorority of women filmmakers on these year-lists though she finds herself one slot shy of making the decade-list. I wonder if that’s more the function of my bias as a male spectator – this idea that I can’t really hear the music on an essential level if its composed by a woman. It’s a terrible blindspot. I’m not sure how to address it. We’ll talk more.
Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is fascinating stuff: an American filmmaker working in his native country with non-Mandarin speakers, engaged in telling one of the foundational books of the mainland culture. Jarmusch + Forest Whitaker = Bliss; Keith Gordon delivers his haunted masterpiece with Waking the Dead; Lodge Kerrigan scores with a suffocating character study; Lars Von Trier astounds with his surrealist ode to the Hollywood Muscial; M. Night Shyamalan accidentally makes a great movie. Then there’s David Gordon Green’s fabulous debut, the Coens’ sneaky-great adaptation of The Odyssey, and Red Planet: the most underestimated modern sci-fi film in memory, lost in the wake of one of the most overestimated: The Matrix.
As a hangover year from the great 1999: a couple of undisputed masterpieces and one of the few years this decade I find that I've let my pro-American bias slip and elected a non-Yank picture as the best of the year.
Ah, me, so full of tangled prejudice.