January 06, 2010

and... done

So now (trumpet fanfare) the best of the aughties - all-in-all a magnificent decade in film… discuss.

Best of the 00s

10. The Dark Knight
9. Where the Wild Things Are
8. Pan’s Labyrinth
7. There Will Be Blood
6. No Country for Old Men
5.Trouble Every Day
4. The New World
3. Mulholland Drive
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
1. Synecdoche, NY


Max B. said...

to make my first comment crass and direct: take out "pan's labyrinth" and stick "children of men" in there somewhere and it's pretty much airtight, imho.

Max B. said...

and to make my second comment more broadly observant, eight of the ten are american (though eternal sunshine was directed by a frenchy). so a good decade for america, cinematically. i'm surprised the dardennes didn't find their way on there somewhere.

Patrick said...

Except for the ones I haven't seen, I support that list. The only thing that's a pity is that there's not a real "fun" film on it. Even Dark Knight, which I would not have put there, but I'll give you that one ;), has only a few purely entertaining scenes.

The rest is just details of positioning, and who can argue about that?

schnofel said...


For seven years I would’ve had Mulholland Dr. at No.2, and then I watch it again, and it seems so slight as a text. I feel that the last half hour is a repeated attempt to super-glue all the Freudian subtext together. For all the Ids and superegos firing away, I prefer the film when it plays its dream state straight.
Also missing is The New World – a great sensual film, but one where I have to lean forward the longer it goes to still hear its murmur – something I don’t have to with the films on this list.

The rest is stuff that, for one reason or another, connects directly with my troubles and my longings (except maybe the Ken Loach, which is there for superior craftsmanship and storytelling and is that rare political movie that is not an embarrassment of simplification). Also except for the heartbreaking The Pianist these are fun movies in a way - I revisit them and come out refreshed. It’s all ecstasy and hurt and release and life. And I find that valuable in this supposed period of hopelessness.

Jefferson Robbins said...

"The New World – a great sensual film, but one where I have to lean forward the longer it goes to still hear its murmur ..."

That is the best evocation of the movie's intangible essence that I think I've ever read.

jer fairall said...

For no good reason at all, here's how I'd rate Walt's list:

10. The Dark Knight ***
9. Where The Wild Things Are ****
8. Pan's Labyrinth ****
7. There Will Be Blood ****
6. No Country For Old Men ****
5. Trouble Every Day (n/a)
4. The New World ***
3. Mulholland Drive ****
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ****
1. Synecdoche, New York ****

...which is another way of saying that 7 out of these 10 films could possibly make my decade list were I to attempt one.

Truthfully, Ratatouille and Children of Men would probably knock NCfOM and WTWTA off of my ten, and I'd probably want some Tarantino in there somewhere, but I think my list would look an awful lot like this one.

My feelings towards The Dark Knight are pretty firmly etched in stone, but I could see myself warming further to The New World were I to have another look at it.

Now if only I could finally get my hands on a copy of Trouble Every Day...

Bill C said...

I have sadly fallen out of love with CHILDREN OF MEN and, to a lesser extent, with PAN'S and NEW WORLD. Not sure why, but I, too, love @schnofel's take on TNW.

I didn't make a decade list because, ultimately, I feel like I have too many blind spots, and too few opportunities to re-test some favourites on the bubble. Walt's list has at least 3 that would most definitely wind up on mine, but at this current moment, I fear that Charlie Kaufman and PT Anderson would occupy so many slots it'd be impossible to take seriously.

Hell, I'm still settling up accounts with the '90s.

O'JohnLandis said...

Top Two of Each Year (first place comes, well, first)

2001: Spirited Away, Ghost World
2002: Talk to Her, Hero
2003: Kill Bill Vol. 1, Dogville
2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Before Sunset
2005: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, The Squid and the Whale
2006: The Prestige, Superman Returns
2007: No Country for Old Men, Ratatouille
2008: Martyrs, Redbelt
2009: Inglourious Basterds, Adventureland (I'd take Antichrist second if I'm in a bad mood, but really I haven't seen enough 2009 yet.)

If I guessed at a Top Ten for these 8 1/2 years:

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

Bill C said...

If I guessed at a Top Ten for these 8 1/2 years

Uproariously pedantic to the last.

Alex Jackson said...

The Prestige is a pretty nutty pick for the best film of 2006. Sometimes I wonder if I underestimated it. The film just struck me as a good yarn, it didn't get me going.

Impressed also how Martyrs gets so much love around here. I actually really liked the Star Child bit and the home invasion sequence was genuinely startling. But the thing is just too hokey for me to buy into all the way. I didn't get into the premise. I didn't accept that there would be a group of people who thought that that would be a good idea. Maybe it's meant be satirical and I just couldn't digest it for whatever reason.

Interesting film that's worth seeing, but not a great one. I can't see myself being rewarded with multiple viewings. The idea that it's in the same category as AntiChrist is kind of ludicrous to me.

I don't really like these best of decade lists as much as the best of the year lists. When they aren't just plain wrong, they are just plain boring. I agree with every one of Walter's choices as at least being best of decade contendents, so, I mean, meh.

Rick said...

For seven years I would’ve had Mulholland Dr. at No.2, and then I watch it again, and it seems so slight as a text. I feel that the last half hour is a repeated attempt to super-glue all the Freudian subtext together.

Wasn't it originally intended to be a television pilot? That could be why if feels forced together in the last half. The thing flies by and contains much (if not standard at this point) insight, but I have no idea how that film could mean more to someone on a personal level than Synecdoche, NY does, in any case. And that is not just because I actually live in Schenectady, NY.

Anonymous said...

From the review of "The Prestige" I wrote for my local paper three years ago:

At first, the film seems to be about the cost of obsession and revenge, but at one point, Angier goes as far as to state that he doesn't care about Borden's original offense anymore, he just wants to know how Borden does his trick. And as the film continues, it becomes clear that the secret is all that matters to Nolan too. Eventually, all the subplots and themes just drift away until the solution to the puzzle is all that's left. This is not really a film about revenge or obsession; it's about the lies, misdirection and trickery involved in pulling off a good magic trick. It's a gimmick film, is what I'm saying.
But the fact is, we never find out whether Bale was really responsible for that first trick gone wrong. And without that knowledge, I have no idea what to think of either Jackman's or Bale's actions -- who was in the right and who was in the wrong. Make no mistake, this is a fantastically entertaining movie. But it also makes sure to tell us that a magician should never reveal his tricks, and by the end of "The Prestige," we know all its secrets -- all except the one it should have shared the most.

The only film on Walter's list that I don't wholeheartedly love is "Trouble Every Day" (too intellectual for me, I wasn't smart enough for it). Everything else lands a solid four stars for me. It's a pretty definitive list, I don't think anyone's going to argue with it very much.


Alex Jackson said...

I guess Trouble Every Day is a somewhat adventurous pick. I share Walter's high esteem for it and I've become so accostomed to seeing it as a great film that it seemed obvious that he would pick it. I forgot that there are a lot of people who don't groove to it and there is some controversy to it. (And that it is still a little obscure).

I think that I was too hard on The Prestige, I changed its status to a "worth consuming" on List of Bests. I like that you say that it's a "gimmick" film and it has more to do with the magic tricks than the revenge. And that it explains all of its tricks. That might explain why I found it kind of disposable and why it doesn't seem that it would reward repeated viewings. It seems that there should be some horror in the last shot, but there's not any. It just seems more novel than anything.

Dan said...

I'm surprised Requiem For A Dream didn't get on *any* of Walter's '00s lists. That film still haunts my nightmares, to this day. (Don't do drugs, kids.) I can't see a review archived anywhere on FCC, so would be nice to hear your thoughts if you have time.

Alex Jackson said...

Bill wrote a capsule for it during the Toronto International Film Festival. I'm not part of the cult for the film (for my money, none of it matched the tear running down Erika Christensen's cheek in Traffic that same year), but you're right that it got lost in the shuffle and I would have expected it to show up on more lists.

Dan said...

I really enjoyed the visual experience of Requiem, plus the performance from Ellen Burstyn was fantastic. I wouldn't say I "loved" it, but it was definitely a film that provoked a strong reaction in me when I first saw it. I clas it as one of the best horrors last decade. That last five-minute montage shredded my brain at the time, too, leaving me depressed for days.

It's a hard film to watch. I've only ever seen it twice, actually. Maybe, 10 years later, I'd view it differently through slightly older eyes, but I can only go on how I felt at the time. I'm surprised it didn't get mentioned on more critical "best of" lists, as you say.

O'JohnLandis said...

The Prestige is about obsession in the sense that most passionate art is about obsession. And revenge is only what starts the ball rolling--though a film in which the alternating acts of reflex escalation become more of a focal point than the original offense would seem to paint a more accurate portrait of revenge than the Hollywood norm. See, I don't buy your review, Kim, because the things you write seem to propel the prose forward rather than accurately describe the movie. Your final sentence is the kind of sentence that sounds like it ought to end the review of something, but not this movie. What's the most important secret? Whose side you're on? That's not the movie's problem. The Prestige is about many things, but if I had to pick two, revenge and obsession wouldn't come close to the top of the list.

One is structural: it's about telling a mystery. Every piece of information we need is on screen--and of course the movie's about magicians, so the similarities between mystery in fiction and a magic trick are supposed to enter our minds, but magic is lies, misdirection. Mystery can be too, but this movie doesn't cheat. It's so careful in how it feeds us information, in how it suggests the supernatural, that we misdirect ourselves. No mystery will stump everybody, but even if you guessed Bale's secret (which is enriched by the romantic material that certainly is as relevant at the end of the movie as the beginning), that's not really important--Michael Caine guessed it too. The important thing is that Jackman couldn't figure it out. Mystery itself drives the action and provides the tension. As we see magic become real, we forget it doesn't have to be.

Or to try it another way: Bale's a magician--a great liar and a decent person--but Jackman is something else entirely. The self-reference mafia might say that Bale is a magician and Jackman is a filmmaker, sacrificing the soul of the real for the sake of illusion. That's a poetic read, but not my thing. Here's my suggestion, and consequently, what I think the film is about:

Jackman is the ugly, jealous desperation at the heart of the creation of the new. We've seen countless movies about the cost of genius for the genius, but this is a movie about the cost of genius for the rest of us. Progress, invention, art--we trick ourselves into ignoring the motives, into thinking a song exists to make great art, rather than to get the singer laid. But we worship the new, and who better than the genius to recognize and exploit that?

You find someone who thinks the end of No Country for Old Men is a letdown or somehow the wrong ending for the movie, what do you do? Tell them to tell you the title of the movie.

This movie is called The Prestige.