Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Decade That Was


It's that time of year, with another year over and a new one about to begin, when we all embrace the opportunity to be all reflective and contemplative about what's come before. This is doubly true with a new decade upon us, when we can reflect on the last ten years and what they meant to us --- or didn't, as the case may be.

Myself, I'm not quite so sentimental, but it's certainly as appropriate a time as any to reflect on the cinematic times that have come to pass. I quite resent the notion that the 00s have represented some kind of nadir of cinema --- as with every other era in movie history, there is the good and the bad. I don't think it's fair to judge the decade from the B to Z movies; we should evaluate the decade based on the quality of the best films, not the worst. And this decade was ripe with works that confirmed the cinema as a powerful art form. Don't listen to the people who tell you the form is on the decline; they're just not looking hard enough.

I will admit some bias in this area. The 00s represent my first full fledged decade of cinephilia, and thus I am partial to it. I was but 11 years old when the decade began, so naturally most of the truly memorable cinematic experiences I've had in my life (be it in a theater or at home) have come in the last ten years. It's important to have a respect for and understanding of what came before, of course, but appreciating what's fresh and new is equally as important an aspect of loving movies.

So, here's the movies that mattered most to me these last ten years, arranged chronologically. To make my life easy, I'm going by initial release dates, not necessarily American ones, so don't bother pointing that out to me. If the movie never had a proper theatrical release, I'll go by initial festival debut. Blind spots are too numerous to mention, so think of this not as an authoritative list, but as an ever expanding work in progress, one that I will probably post an addendum to on a yearly basis. Take a walk through the movies with me, won't you?

Mission to Mars (Brian De Palma, 2000): For me, the first great movie of the decade, and also among its most reviled, though why I'm not exactly sure. But it's a wild, bold, and beautiful take on our place in the Universe, and the miracle and wonder of existence --- simultaneously sophisticated and pulpy. You may read my humble thoughts on the picture here.


In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000): I may not be the most objective critic of Wong Kar Wai, whose imagery I find so intoxicating, whose world-view I find so earnest, and whose sense of romance I find so passionate that I'm generally even taken with lesser works. In the Mood for Love, however, is no lesser work --- it may be Wong's most fully realized film. This tale of the unconsummated love affair between Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) and Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) still manages to be as sensual and romantic as any of Bertolucci's sex dramas.


George Washington (David Gordon Green 2000): A poetic rumination on childhood and the South --- like a cosmic, earthy Killer of Sheep.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (The Coen brothers, 2000): The Coens' take on American folklore elevates modern American history to a unique blending of myth, fairy tale, and folk legend. Stunning cinematography by Roger Deakins, and a brilliant soundtrack to boot.


In Praise of Love (Jean-Luc Godard, 2001): Godard best sums up the great aesthetic divide of the 21st century with In Praise of Love, half of which shot on black & white 35mm celluloid, the other half shot with video. As always with Godard, he tells us a story but also introduces a serious discourse on film, culture, and politics.

Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001): Miyazaki brings his unique stamp to an Alice in Wonderland type story, but he doesn't just give us eye candy, he's careful to dramatize the coming of age of his heroine.

A.I. (Steven Spielberg, 2001): I'm gonna have to side with Jonathan Rosenbaum and pick this as my favorite movie of the decade. A brilliant pairing of perhaps cinema's greatest mind, Stanley Kubrick, and cinema's greatest eye, Steven Spielberg, is much more than a mish-mashing of sensibilities; it's filled to the brim with ideas and insight into humanity, art, and existence in general. It's also packed with some of the most dazzling imagery in modern cinema, like a 21st Century silent movie. Those who interpret the ending as sentimental need to watch it again as, like Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, it uses the so-called 'sentimentality' as a mask for much more disturbing subtext.



Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001): David Lynch's sad, strange tale of romance is also a bold critiquing of Hollywood convention and formula, deconstructing the very notion of Hollywood as a kind of earthly Oz. What started off as a Hollywood version of Twin Peaks became one of the most tragic love stories ever committed to film.


ABC Africa (Abbas Kiarostami, 2001): Kiarostami's first foray into digital is a startlingly humanist insight into the economic and political strife that still plagues the continent of Africa. Whereas many documentaries of this ilk are opportunistic and patronizing, Kiarostami's film is full of life and energy. Pure digital poetry.

The Man Who Wasn't There (The Coen Brothers, 2001): The Coens take on film-noir is one of their finest existentialist comedies. Like most of their best work, it has a unique grounding in, and understanding of, film history and genre.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001): A brilliantly conceived adaptation of Tolkien's seminal work. I'm only including the first one, because I feel that as the series went on they just got sillier and sillier, with Jackson trying to cram as many details from the novels as possible instead of fleshing out his own cinematic world. They don't play well outside of a multiplex. But as a self contained unit, Fellowship of the Ring holds up rather well.

Punch Drunk Love (P.T. Anderson, 2002): P.T. Anderson's unique love story about two outsiders is a wonderful reflection of alienation and disenfranchisement in the modern world. Every frame is absolutely stunning, and Adam Sandler turns in a performance that is nothing short of a revelation.


Femme Fatale (Brian De Palma, 2002): The ultimate De Palma movie. I really can't think of much else to say about it in blurb form.


25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002): Spike Lee's tale of machismo and loss is also a startling reflection of New York in the weeks and months following 9/11, to the point where you can almost smell the burning rubble. In addition to being a moving drama, with a career performance from Edward Norton, it stands as a filmic record of one of the darkest hours in American history.

Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese, 2002): Scorsese's sprawling epic is also a brilliant microcosm of racial and political tensions in 1860s America. Unlike most of the other epic films of the 00s, this one is mostly absent of CGI, and that lends the film an aura of intimacy and authenticity.


Catch Me If You Can (Steven Spielberg, 2002): Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) arrives home from school one day to find a lawyer in his apartment. The lawyer gives him a Sophie's choice of sorts --- his parents are getting a divorce, and he has to pick which parent he wants to live with. Instead of choosing, he runs away --- and in this one single image, Spielberg captures youth as the blending of anarchy and confusion that it is. While many of Spielberg's films deal in fantasy, this film is about a youth that attempts to live in a fantasy world, like an adolescent James Bond. He instead has to come to a harsh understanding of reality.

The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci, 2003): Bertolucci simultaneously criticizes and romanticizes youth in his brilliant The Dreamers, perhaps his best film since the 70s (Bertolucci is another director I find intoxicating so, again, I may not be the most objective of critics). Like an intimate, sexy version of Godard's La Chinoise.


Kill Bill (Quentin Tarantino, 2003): I'm counting Tarantino's fractured epic as one movie, in spite of the fact that it was released in two installments. To truly appreciate the scope of Tarantino's vision, you pretty much have to treat it as one movie, in spite of the fact that the Weinstein's chose to milk every last penny out of it by releasing his 4 hour vision in two parts. Volume 1 may be balls to the wall action, and in that it's fairly unique amongst his movies, but in the second volume he gives the characters meaning, depth, and gravity, transforming what were comic book archetypes in the first volume into flesh and blood. Taken as a whole it's a rather stunning achievement.


Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003): I do not think Elephant is a great film by any means; truth be told, I'm not even sure it's a very good one. It's ideologically confused, and towards the end attempts to pin school shootings on just a couple of bad eggs, almost refusing to engage with the manner in which High School culture makes youth feel isolated, alone, and confused. But, whether Van Sant means to or not, this is an important film that deals with an issue that has defined a generation (including mine), that is the issue of schools becoming warzones. Van Sant, instead of trying to find one exact reason why Columbine-type school shootings happen, takes an almost cosmic perspective towards a school shooting.

The Company (Robert Altman, 2003): Robert Altman's first foray into digital stunningly captures the majesty of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, like a painting in motion. Worthy of consideration with Altman's other great ensemble dramas.


Bad Education (Pedro Almodovar, 2004): Almodovar's tale of sexual abuse in Franco-era Spain is so personal as to make one uncomfortable during the viewing of it. Almodovar claims to have worked on the script for 10 years, and it shows --- the film is masterfully interwoven, coming together for an almost Hitchockian finale. That the film came out during the biggest child abuse scandal in the history of the Catholic church only adds to its impact.

Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, 2004): A moving and insightful film that beautifully illustrates that classicism is as much a part of why abortion was illegal as sexism --- and the manner in which the two are intimately interrelated. Though made in the heat of an ongoing and ever present abortion debate, Vera Drake never feels cheaply political.



Howl's Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004): Miyazaki's follow up to his great Spirited Away suffered from a bit of a backlash effect --- how is this movie anything less than stunning from first frame to last? In addition to being another of Miyazaki’s aesthetically rich works, it has a beautifully articulated antiwar sentiment.

Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004): Perhaps the decades funniest movie – in addition to having a brilliantly funny script and great comedic actors (most of whom worked together on the sitcom Spaced), it has great visual humor that relies on composition, camera movement, and the use of space for its ultimate effect. Oh, and the picture’s insights into the zombified nature of modern culture are more apt. than in the George A. Romero film from which it apes its title. Just sayin’.

The Terminal (Steven Spielberg, 2004): I think it speaks to the scope of Steven Spielberg that his most modestly scaled film of the last ten years includes a full scale recreation of JFK Airport on a sound stage, a rather incredible feat. Though he tried to find a real airport that would allow him to film there before deciding to film on a set, this is very much to the film's benefit --- who would want to spend two hours trapped in a real airport? Instead, Spielberg's airport is as fantastic as anything he's ever filmed. The film's sensibility lies somewhere between Capra and Tati; simultaneously a sentimental fairy tale and a detached look at modern society. The Terminal also has one of the most nuanced looks into post 9/11 America, particularly the way the Patriot Act created something of a Police State.


Palindromes (Todd Solondz, 2004): I have mixed feelings about Solondz --- I admire Welcome to the Dollhouse very much, loathed Happiness, and appreciated Storytelling somewhat, so going into Palindromes I wasn’t quite sure how I’d react to it. It’s certainly typical Solondz subject matter; a 13 year old girl named Aviva (the cousin of Welcome to the Dollhouse’s Dawn Weiner, whose funeral opens this film) wants someone to love her, so she seeks to become pregnant by any means necessary, what’s different --- and revelatory – is the execution. Solondz has Aviva played by 13 different actresses; some children, some adults, some black, some white, but each revealing a new layer of meaning, and lending the film an almost fairy tale nature.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson, 2004): Epic film making never felt so personal. In terms of ambition and scope, The Life Aquatic stands virtually alone in the pantheon of American cinema in the 00s. A beautiful, moving film about family and the majesty of Planet Earth. If The Life Aquatic is a failure, what's a success?


War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg, 2005): Who but Steven Spielberg would give the world the first avant-garde blockbuster? Spielberg tackles his usual theme of family (specifically fatherhood), but he focuses it through the prism of post-9/11 dread. The film is a channeling of 9/11 imagery into the annals of science fiction. A haunting, beautiful nightmare.


Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2005): The second part of Spielberg's incredible one-two punch of 2005, and to be truly appreciated it must be seen through the prism of War of the Worlds. I had mixed feelings about War of the Worlds when I first saw it in the summer of 2005, but when I saw Munich at the end of that year, I began to understand exactly what it was Spielberg was going for. If War of the Worlds is the dream, then Munich is the reality. You wake up and begin to comprehend the dream logic; what seemed illogical, even nonsensical, suddenly makes perfect sense. So much more than a timely film about what is perhaps the most important (and complex) issue facing the world today --- the split between Israel and Palestine --- Munich is ultimately about the manner in which violence perpetuates itself. It's the most intellectual case for pacifism ever made in an American movie. The final image, which shows the World Trade Center off in the distance simply waiting to be destroyed --- yet another casualty of the Israel/Palestine conflict --- sends the message home in a powerful way.


The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005): Terrence Malick makes an old story (one of the oldest) feel completely fresh and new in The New World; the film is about the magic, and horror, of discovery. When the Native Americans and the Colonialists go to battle for the first time, it doesn't feel like a foregone conclusion --- in Malick's hands, it really does feel like the first time.


Planet Earth (Alastair Fothergill, 2006): I know it's cheating including this on my list, as the mini-series Planet Earth --- which debuted on the BBC and had its American broadcast on the Discovery channel --- really isn't a feature film. But it's certainly cinema; an awe-inspiring, humbling filmic record of the beauty and mysteries of the rock we all call home. Using some of the most advanced digital cameras in the world, Planet Earth captures the planet and the life that populates it in a way that's never been seen before. The camera's had up to 40X magnification which allowed the documentarians to observe the animals from a distance, and they also had a special infra-red lens that made filming in pitch darkness as easy as filming in broad daylight, thus allowing the documentarians to record animals without the obstruction of heavy lighting equipment. The 40x zoom also allowed them to film from high in the sky, following predators as they capture their prey (one particularly striking sequence captures a Cheetah running at full speed through an open space to capture dinner). All in all, perhaps the most incredible nature documentary ever made.

Volver (Pedro Almodovar, 2006): Picture Hitchcock and Cukor collaborating on a Spanish version of The Women and you begin to understand the unique vibrations of this Almodovar masterpiece.


A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006): What would become Altman's last film really is one of his best; the sometimes mean-spirited tone of some of his later work is completely stripped away in this buoyantly humanist tale of the last broadcast of an old-time radio show, one of a dying breed. More than just cinematic nostalgia, this film is about building a bridge from the old to the new, from youth to old age, from life to death. A truly beautiful, moving picture, and a fitting end to one of the greatest careers in American cinema.


Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006): Mann's film adaptation of his own television show is one of the most intimate, romantic, stripped down blockbusters ever made; reducing action movie cliches to their existential essence. A bold, exciting use of digital film making tools that could never have been done with traditional celluloid.

Happy Feet (George Miller, 2006): Like a pop music equivalent of Fantasia, Miller's animated masterpiece finds the perfect piece of music --- be it The Beach Boys or The Beatles or Prince --- to accompany its visual rhythms. The most inventive computer animated movie since Toy Story, and to my eyes better than anything Pixar has done since that debut film.

Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006): David Lynch's first digital video excursion is perhaps his purest work since his seminal debut Eraserhead. Full of dream logic, loose connectives, and haunting imagery, Inland Empire is one hell of a trip.

Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007): Tarantino's contribution to the Grindhouse double feature is a brilliant summation and transcending of screen misogyny, specifically as perpetuated by the horror genre.


Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (Matt Maiellaro & David Willis, 2007): The only real example of surreal animation out of America that I can think of, the film version of Adult Swim's Aqua Teen Hunger Force is a brutal, gleeful slaughtering of Hollywood convention and formula. Not to mention it's fucking hilarious.



Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, 2007): Werner Hezog's English language debut is a beautiful tale of humanity and brotherhood in a POW camp during the Vietnam War. Like most of Herzog's work, more about the war between man and nature than between man and man.

The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, 2007): Wes Anderson's masterpiece was accused of racism by a great many people --- because it dare be about white people (eww!) who go to a Third World country and learn the meaning of family, brotherhood, and love. Of course, it's not as lame as I make it sound, because Anderson's film is as much about the fact that rich white people seem to have a thing for going to India to 'find themselves'.


No Country for Old Men (The Coen Brothers, 2007): The Coen's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel brilliantly sums up the emotional anxiety of living in post 9/11, post Iraq War America. Though described as apolitical by some detractors, I think this label is inaccurate --- just because it's not polemical doesn't mean it isn't political. It's more about an emotional state of mind than a specific sociological event.

My Blueberry Nights (Wong Kar Wai, 2007): Wong Kar Wai's wildly romantic tale of human connection is like a compact Short Cuts. It's about the way human beings, in spite of needing isolation, really thrive on one another. Another stunner from Master Wong.


Youth Without Youth (Francis Ford Coppola, 2007): Francis Ford Coppola's startling cinematic comeback is perhaps the most incredible use of the form of digital thus far. The story, about an elderly man who is struck by lightning and begins to age backwards, is a perfect metaphor for an aged film maker rejuvenated by new film making tools. Coppola is back in a big way.


Diary of the Dead (George A. Romero, 2008): Truthfully, outside of the original Night of the Living Dead, Romero's zombie films always left me a bit cold. The much lauded Dawn of the Dead struck me as sanctimonious and obvious ("Oh, I get it, putting the zombies in a mall is really a commentary on consumerist culture! Oh George, you ol' sly boots.), and that may be doubly true of Day of the Dead. I found Land of the Dead's themes of class distinction to be far more subtle and thematically appropriate than the social import in his earlier pictures, and I think the small scale Diary of the Dead is probably the best of the Dead films since the first. Diary of the Dead, while channeling post 9/11 and Iraq War dread, is also about the manner in which the digital age has radically changed the way in which information is shared --- themes Brian De Palma fumbled in his cheap anti-war diatribe Redacted. Unlike other horror films which use the first person technique strictly for cheap scares, Romero uses this perspective to approach the horror genre --- and politics --- from a new, incredibly revealing angle.

Chop Shop (Raman Bahrani, 2008): A lyrical look into the poverty and destitution in Flushing, New York is never oppressively glum. Bahrani instead offers us a poetic insight into the daily existence of his characters, mercifully avoiding the patronizing liberal guilt trip that plagues so many films about the poor.

Happy Go Lucky (Mike Leigh, 2008): A thoroughly wonderful film featuring perhaps the performance of the decade (Sally Hawkins), Leigh's Happy Go Lucky is a beautiful insight into human nature and the way our behavior affects everyone we come into contact with, whether we realize it or not.

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): The computer effects that George Lucas used as a toy the Wachowski's use as a tool in the unfairly maligned Speed Racer --- a case in which the form, groundbreaking and unique though it is, was all most who watched it could see. A brilliant anti-corporate fable, painted on the screen with a stunning palette of bright colors.


RocknRolla (Guy Ritchie, 2008): I never, ever thought I'd love a Guy Ritchie movie. My first exposure to him was Snatch, which I thought (and still do think) was just stupid. I didn't much care for his debut Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels either. He just struck me as another in a long line of Tarantino wannabes, only without the sense of movie history that makes Tarantino unique. I decided to give Revolver a chance when several people whose opinions I trust used superlatives when describing it, and that was certainly the film of his that won me over. However, I find RocknRolla to be a much more complete film; full of the same exciting style of Revolver, but it has far more charm, wit, and grace.

Shirin (Abbas Kiarostami, 2008): Kiarostami's adaptation of the legend of "Khosrow and Shirin" is a completely radical reinvention of traditional cinematic storytelling. Instead of watching the film unfold in a traditional manner, we watch an audience as they watch the film, and we only hear a very carefully (and expertly) arranged soundtrack --- all we see for 90 minutes are the enraptured faces of the spectators of the film. It's like two films in one; in addition to being told the story of "Khosrow and Shirin", Kiarostami's film is a brilliant investigation into how cinema --- and art in general --- affects us.


Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 2008): Approximately a half hour into Demme's brilliant Rachel Getting Married, tears began flowing from my eyes; not tears of sadness, but tears of joy, for the depth and breadth of human experience is so beautifully and poignantly rendered in Demme's collage that I found it impossible not to be moved by it. In most films the images simply unfold, but in Rachel Getting Married, they dance.


Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009): A truly inventive animated film that attempts to move the form past the trivializing notion of 'family entertainment'. Fuck Avatar and Up, Coraline is still the only inventive use of 3D I've ever seen. My review here.

The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, 2009): I'd been lukewarm on Jarmusch up to this point; always admiring his beautiful compositions but generally being left cold by the actual content of his films. This was definitely *the* Jarmusch picture for me, and has helped me look at his filmography in a completely different light. Maybe my favorite of 2009 at this point.


Tetro (Fracis Ford Coppola, 2009): Another Coppola revelation, formally speaking it's the complete opposite of Youth Without Youth, but they both indicate an artist moving into perhaps his richest phase yet. My take here.

Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009): Tarantino's final film of the decade proved he was the maker of the most idiosyncratic epic films of the last ten years. Review here.

This Is It (Kenny Ortega, 2009): I initially planned to avoid This Is It entirely, as I didn't want to contribute any of my money to the "Michael Jackson Death Fund", but I'm glad I caved, as This Is It is worthy of consideration with any of the other great concert films you can think of. It's also different from any other concert film; as opposed to providing a filmic record of a concert, This Is It is about the concert we never got to see. And, from the looks of it, the world missed a hell of a show. Though MJ is saving his energy for the actual show through most of the film, every once in a while he feels the music and simply can't help but get into his performance, and seeing inspiration flow through his body --- especially during a beautiful rendition of "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" --- is one of the great moments at the movies in 2009.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009): The last great movie I saw this decade is also perhaps the best American animated film of the last ten years; Anderson's compositions perfectly fleshes out a storybook aesthetic, but this is much more than kids stuff --- though his cast is furry, Anderson's film is ultimately about humanity, as all of his pictures are.


A Happy New Year to all of you, and a Happy New Decade as well. Thanks to all of you for making my first year of blogging memorable. I feel like many of you have become my friends over the course of the last few months, and I'm looking forward to my first full year of blogging.

Nitpickers may feel free to point out that the next decade doesn't actually begin until 2011 in the comment section.
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A special thanks to my pal Rob Humanick, who grabbed that there Aqua Teen Hunger Force screencap for me at virtually a moment's notice.

67 comments:

Craig said...

Stunning list, Ryan! I've seen 39 of the 55 films you mentioned (if I counted correctly), and I liked about half of them. We differ most on Spielberg and agree most on Tarantino. Thanks for including Shaun of the Dead, which was on the bubble of my list; I just watched Hot Fuzz again and it has many of the same qualities you cited about Shaun -- I'd put it up there too. Great variety all around.

Adam Zanzie said...

Man, I tell you, Ryan: reading through this list made me giddy. I'm still very grateful that I met you and Rob and all those other people from IMDB those couple of years ago; it's very hard to find a person in St. Louis with such a strikingly similar worldview of film.

I was most excited to see you honoring the films of my four filmmaking heroes: Spielberg, Scorsese, De Palma and Coppola. Oh, sure- I think you coulda honored more Scorsese films than just Gangs in New York, and I'm STILL plotting vengeance for that "diatribe" comment over Redacted, but hey- it's the New Year. We gotta cheer up over such things before sharpening our steak knives :)

Truth be told, I was even more floored to see you honoring the works of filmmakers whose works I remain unfamiliar with- Kiastromi, David Gordon Green, etc. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to see their films anytime soon (suddenly I feel expedited to hurry it up with my own list), but you've certainly made me want to make up for all that lost time.

Now, about your inclusion of In Praise of Love. I give you tons of credit for finding room to throw in a Godard film on here (it's a shame he didn't make more films during the decade), but is it really that great a film? I've never seen In Praise of Love, but the stuff I read about it was very upsetting: Godard tries to accuse Spielberg as a Holocaust opportunist and attempts to portray him as a symbol for everything wrong with American cinema.

Again, I haven't seen the film, but apparently there are two sides of the coin: the negative 1-star review by Roger Ebert, which is disgusted with Godard's hatred of Spielberg and America in general; and the 4-star review by Jonathan Rosenbaum, who not only agrees with Godard's anti-Spielberg sentiment but even shares Godard's criticism of Spielberg as a supposed opportunist (Rosenbaum bashes Spielberg for not giving Oskar Schindler's wife her due credit, or something).

Of course, there was also the review by Armond White, who loved the film, but at the same time sort of tries to avoid the Spielberg issue in his review. That worries me, since- knowing White and his Godard apologetism- he was probably too afraid to call out Godard on this thing.

But I repeat, I've neglected to see the film. I guess you can say I'm afraid to- I have too much admiration for Godard to have to see him spoil himself like that (if indeed it's as hurtful as Ebert makes it out to be). Since you're like me and you love both Godard and Spielberg, how did you react to this fiasco? I might even consider seeing the film myself to see if it warrants a spot on my own list, so I'd really appreciate your thoughts. (it WOULD be awesome to have a Godard film on my list- I bet you're gonna make a whole bunch of friends for doing that, btw!)

But seriously, this is a marvelous list. It truly did remind me that this was a remarkable decade in film.

Eric R. said...

Very colorful and diversified list Ryan. I have to say that at different times I was disappointed, impressed, pleased, and sometimes completely shocked. First off, your list is filled with Spielberg yet where is Minority Report, which by the way I think is his best of this decade. Also: Speed Racer, RocknRolla, Happy Feet, Youth Without Youth. You cannot be serious? I would love to see a full post on any one of these films some time soon. I would love to see your reasons, especially Speed Racer which I still hold a special grudge against.

But anyway, on the lighter side, there were some good selections all around. I'm curious though, have you ever seen The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada or Lost In Translation? Did you consider them or perhaps you have yet to see them? Those two, in my opinion, are two of the best films of this decade.

Greg said...

Ryan, a terrific list to read through and one in which I have seen most of the films on it. I've probably seen two or three hundred from the decade rather than the two thousand or so a professional critic would see so having as many in common with you is pretty amazing. Many of these I wouldn't rank very highly but there is one I would disagree very strongly on. It's one I saw because of you, and Bill and Brian Doan. It's Mission to Mars. I went in ready to see the movie that was unfairly maligned, the one you and Bill described.

Brother, that movie never showed its face.

I'm sorry to disagree so strongly but the fact is I'm kind of amazed it's metacritic and rotten tomato ratings are so high. I found it to be just short of a complete cinematic holocaust. I do not believe it was unjustly maligned, I believe it was let off easy.

My god, my god, the dialogue. Stilted, wooden, moronic, pointless. There was a constant need in the dialogue to show itself to be "natural" as the guys joke about one thing after another and Tim Robbins and wife spew nothing but one cringe-inducing one-liner after another. Then serious dialogue two or three steps down from James Cameron's dialogue and Jesus, I was just horrified. It made the acting from such a great set of actors come off as dull and uninspired.

And the music was off-mood for every scene. It was also quite schizophrenic: Orchestral, synthesizer, basslines, etc. There was simply no coherence to it. None.

Then simple misfires like the movie not quite following its own logic like we're supposed to believe these are trained experienced astronauts and when a massive column of dust from severe winds starts blowing they do... nothing. They don't immediately make their way back or seek shelter or... anything. Until of course it's too late, which is about five full minutes after the audience realized that.

And the story. The Martians are us. Did anyone sincerely not get that from the first encounter on Mars and yet somehow to our dimwitted astronauts it's a revelation at the end.

And then... ah hell, this is just a comment, not a review, I should shut up. But seriously, I'm not kidding or trying to be unjustly harsh. I really did find Mission to Mars fully and absolutely deserving of its reputation. It is pure cinematic excrement. Easily one of the worst films I have seen in years. Truly embarrassing filmmaking.

So yeah, clearly we disagree but I strongly urge you to see it again and listen to the music and how it doesn't work at all for almost any scene. Listen to the dialogue, particularly for the constant "natural" humorous cringe-inducing banter. Count every time something makes no logical sense within the own universe of the film. Seriously, watch it again. I bet you'll see it differently now if it's been a few years since you last saw it.

But the rest of the list, I like. Excellent picks.

Ryan Kelly said...

Thanks very much, Craig! And glad to see someone else loves Shaun of the Dead, it really is wonderful. As much as I love it, I still haven't seen Hot Fuzz. Perhaps it will be added next year!

Happy New Year, Craig.

Ryan Kelly said...

Adam, in spite of the fact that the IMDb boards have a reputation as being among the lowest form of discourse, I've met some incredibly intelligent people on their forums who have a passionate love and understanding of film. Yes, it's populated by a lot of trolls too, but we should focus on the positive.

Yes, I do fully believe the 'movie brats' are putting out work as good, if not better, than in the storied 70s. And what's remarkable is the way this accomplishment is so frequently diminished --- Spielberg, De Palma, Coppola and Scorsese (though to a much lesser extent) are practically swept under the rug.

I thought long and hard about including The Aviator, a wonderful movie that I like very much. Ultimately, I just couldn't see myself putting it on the same level as the other films on the list, much as I like it. And there really isn't much to The Departed, though I enjoyed it.

And you know that Redacted comment was just for you. A'int I a stinker?

Moving on to In Praise of Love. Yes, his attacks on the United States and Spielberg are more than a little mean-spirited. However, this doesn't mean he doesn't have a point, though I think calling Spielberg an opportunist is just a handy way of refusing to engage with his art. What's especially disappointing is that when he was a critic and first started directing he, along with the other members of the Cahiers du Cinema crowd, had incredible insight into exactly what was great about the best American films. Now, America seems to personify the great evil to him, and art simply can't come from it.

But Godard had it in for Spielberg for a long time. He chewed him out --- viciously --- for reconstructing Auschwitz for Schindler's List. I'll try to dig up the article for you if I can.

But, the reason these attacks don't bother me is because I feel like he's simply trying to create a discourse that he feels is mostly absent from the culture. And that's what art is --- showing us a perspective we perhaps wouldn't have considered on our own. Criticism has regressed into advertising and the same is true of movies and I think that frustrates the shit out of him.

Just see the damn thing and make up your own mind.

And, indeed, the decade was full of great films. Now, bring on the 10s!

Ryan Kelly said...

Hello Eric, thanks for dropping by and a Happy New Year to you.

Well, I was going for all of that and more. If it was going to read like every other best of the decade list, what's the point? I left off a lot of films I like very much, because I didn't want this to turn into a regurgitation of every movie I ever liked the last ten years. I don't feel that Minority Report, much as I like it, is worthy of consideration in the same way the other Spielberg films I mentioned are. Some have argued that there's a lot going on underneath the chases and action scenes, but frankly I don't see it. Maybe there are themes brewing under the surface, but it strikes me as ultimately an action movie with some interesting subtext that gets pushed aside.

Yeah, I do really think all those films are wonderful, though I think if I saw Speed Racer on the big screen I would have despised it and felt overwhelemed. I saw it on DVD and found the whole thing to go down smoothly. Again, I think all those films are bold and exciting uses of a new technology, though they're not conventional in any way. Maybe I will do something on them sometime soon. With respect to Youth Without Youth, though I haven't written a review of it per-se, I do wax poetic about it in my Tetro review hosted here at MQ.


No, I haven't seen The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, though it is on my to-do list. Lost in Translation is another movie I like that A) I didn't feel strongly enough about and B) I didn't really feel needed any extra attention called to it. The best thing in it is Bill Murray, and I think he's even better in the much undervalued Life Aquatic. If he was nominated for Translation he should have won for The Life Aquatic.

As always a pleasure having you here and thanks for stopping by.

Ryan Kelly said...

Greg, you hurt my feelings, and that makes me a sad panda.

But seriously I will admit to some cringing the first time I saw Mission to Mars. Though I honestly don't think it's because the movie is poorly written, nor do I think the performances are bad. Rather, I would suggest that the movie's earnestness can make one uncomfortable. I'm obviously only speaking for myself, though.

But the central conceit is one I'm simply enamored with. I can look past the film's flaws, which I certainly concede it has, because I find the idea of life being intimately interrelated to one another and the treatment of aliens as a real life equivalent of God to be an incredibly beautiful one, and it's a unifying feature of many of my favorite science fiction movies. So, call me a sucker.

Take all these science fiction movies --- some of them good --- that relegate aliens to the monster role. This is diminishing, almost a cosmic version of xenophobia. Mission to Mars is at least a humanistic B-Movie.

And I'm kinda gay for De Palma (there, I said it!) and find his camera work so precise and intoxicating that sometimes I'm even taken with his lesser works, which you could argue Mission to Mars is or isn't. But just look at the camerawork during the "Dance the Night Away" sequence; his camera is as weightless as his characters are. His camera is perhaps the most radical use of cinematic space outside of maybe Altman.

And the first time I saw it I thought Morricone's score was out of place too, but now I find it soothing and pleasant, just like the movie.

But don't apologize for the lengthy comment, I wanted the list to incite conversation and debate. Thanks for telling me how bad my taste is, Greg, you're a true friend. =)

Greg said...

Mission to Mars is at least a humanistic B-Movie.

I don't deny that I just feel(obviously from my comment above) that it beyond poorly executed. And you don't have bad taste, I'm just being harsh with my words. I think we all have movies that others could argue are bad that we think are good. I don't mean a guilty pleasure, I mean we actually think they're very good movies. Clearly others feel this movie is quite bad, me included, and you and Bill don't.

Sorry if I was too blunt.

Ryan Kelly said...

Oh, Greg, no no no no no... no. Not at all. I appreciate your honesty very much and enjoyed your comment, and always appreciate you sharing your views here. Please don't feel like you have to soften up your tone to avoid hurting my feelings, because I don't have feelings to hurt.

But seriously, you're someone who can handle disagreements civilly and that's all I ever ask for. Please feel free to always speak your mind here.

I was just kidding about the whole 'thanks for telling me how bad my taste is' line, and feared it would be misinterpreted. My apologies if that wasn't conveyed.

Now, GROUP HUG!!!

Adam Zanzie said...

Eric and Greg, I gotta add that I'm just as much of a sucker for Mission to Mars and Youth Without Youth as Ryan is. With regards to De Palma's film, I first saw it back in late 2000 or early 2001 when it came out on Pay-Per-View. Admittedly, I was in 4th grade at the time, and my opinion was easily swayed... BUT, it was also my first De Palma film, and after watching the movie countless times I made sure to remember his name.

The only real flaw I still find in Mission to Mars is what you were saying, Greg, about the whole lovey-duvey dialogue between Tim Robbins and Connie Nielsen. But I think those are made up for by the time Robbins' death scene comes. I've confessed this before, but that scene often makes me cry. The Ennio Morricone score and Sinise's uttering of "he's gone" probably has something to do with it.

Everything else about the film I find seductive. It's unorthodox, sure, but then again most great De Palma films are unorthodox. I just realized now that The Phantom of the Paradise is hardly different in its balancing of silliness and tragedy.

Eric, I'm just curious: where do you think Youth Without Youth steps wrong? I could make an even stronger case for that film, which I don't think is silly in the least. Goddamn it, I'd say Youth Without Youth is the very definition of a small masterpiece! Only Coppola could be so surprising.

Craig said...

Please don't feel like you have to soften up your tone to avoid hurting my feelings, because I don't have feelings to hurt.

Well, you weren't speaking directly to me....and I'm still a little tentative....but....okay....

I hate Mission to Mars too! There, I said it. Ha ha ha! And I feel GREAT!

Seriously, thanks. I needed that.

Eric R. said...

Adam, to be honest Youth Without Youth is not so fresh in my memory, but I remember clearly hating it. So, to have a good discussion on it would be very difficult for me. But I have to say that it felt unfocused and often deceptively complex. I didn't really understand it and after some time have become convinced that there really isn't something to understand, the movie is toying with us all the way through.

I'm wondering though, in what ways do you think that it steps right? Maybe if your arguments are good enough I'll be willing to revisit it. But from what I remember it struck me as a complete bore, a film masquerading as something that was really about something when in reality being a rather empty shell of a movie.

Tony Dayoub said...

SPEED RACER may not have made my decade list, but I fully back you up on how underrated it is. I think it is a better realized movie than AVATAR is, for example.

Must disagree with you on MISSION TO MARS, as you already know. And A.I. just missed my decades list. Though I agree the ending is downbeat, I think it is flawed because Spielberg is trying to have it both ways, mitigating the brutality of the end by "masking it with sentimentality" as you said. And why not MINORITY REPORT if you are such a Spielberg fan?

Greg said...

Ryan, please, I wasn't offended at all. I was the one coming off as too harsh but in all honesty I was so stunned by the badness of Mission to Mars I couldn't think of a nicer way to say it. I don't think you or Bill have bad taste and I totally knew you were joking, it's just that I was expecting so much more based on the recommendations of you and Bill and, to my eyes at least, it was a true travesty of filmmaking.

Jerk.

The Filmist said...

I must say, you've got a real good head on your shoulders, there - aesthetically. Coincidentally, George Miller's "Happy Feet" also popped up on my 'best of the decade' list - give it a look, if it pickles your fancy.

http://thefilmist.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/best-of-the-2000s-3-george-millers-happy-feet/

Ryan Kelly said...

There, I said it. Ha ha ha! And I feel GREAT!

Consider this a therapeutic outlet. I won't even charge you my normal 5 cent fee.

Ryan Kelly said...

Tony, I think if that movie had gotten more credit it may not have made my list, though that obviously wouldn't make it any less wonderful a movie. But it is funny that Avatar, which to my eyes was nothing but empty technology, is praised as being a revolutionary use of digital when Speed Racer, which I find far more inventive, imaginative, and personal, was accused of being just that. I think it's certainly worthy of consideration as being the most impressive large-scale use of digital technology at this point.

Yes, I know how you feel about Mission to Mars, but I'll always have the pleasure of knowing that you published a passionate defense of it at your blog because of moi. =)

Again, I think Minority Report is very good, it's just never stuck with me in the way the other Spielberg films I mentioned do. I think it's as well done and entertaining as anything he's ever done but wouldn't personally rank it among his very best works.

Ryan Kelly said...

Greg, while we're on the subject of recommendations I think you'll love Manos: The Hands of Fate. When have I ever steered you wrong?

Ryan Kelly said...

Filmist, truly beautiful and insightful piece on what I think is one of the best American animated features from this last decade. I sheepishly admit that was the first time I've read something by you but it won't be the last. Great to see someone giving the film its due, and acknowledging its complexity. Thanks you very much for sharing.

Jake said...

Anyone who declares a love for A.I. is automatically OK in my book; I'd begun to fear that entering the world of cinephilia somehow required me to start hating Spielberg. Though, I really need to revisit War of the Worlds. I saw it when it came out as a brash 16-year-old who thought it looked gorgeous but lacked the spark of other Spielberg films; 4 years and a hell of a lot of cinematic maturation later, I'd be very interested to see what I think of it. Glad to see Gangs of New York as well. Yes, it's flawed, but I'd place it just under 25th Hour in terms of the best cinematic responses to 9/11.

I can't go along with Speed Racer, but since I am not an idiot can respect another opinion (if Transformers had found its way onto a list, though, that changes the laws of decency). I also need to revisit Miami Vice; it was one of the first movies I blogged about, back when my blog was just a way to post longer but still uncoordinated film thoughts to post on a forum I frequent without taking up space there. A recent rewatch of Collateral (my pick for Mann's best of the decade and one of my 25 favorites) has me itching to give both MV and Public Enemies another go.

I haven't seen all these films, but I'm surprised that I'm only missing 19 considering how recently I really got into film. Man I really want to see Tetro; I hear it's not perfect, but even the negative reviews point out that it's Coppola's best in years.

Miranda Wilding said...

Now THIS is a monumental and idiosyncratic list. No wonder you're getting a ton of responses to this particular thread.

I think many, MANY people will be enjoying this for quite some time to come.

I have not seen all of these films. But they certainly were marvelous and exceptional cinematic experiences to partake in.

I am madly in love with the KILL BILL(s), INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, VERA DRAKE, HAPPY GO LUCKY and MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS.

Though they're not quite on the same level of swoon, I also dig AI, GANGS OF NEW YORK, MULHOLLAND DRIVE and MUNICH a whole hell of a lot.

Had a near perfect sweltering summer evening taking in A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION with a lovely green eyed boy. That movie was just the beginning.

Which reminds me...

Thanks for posting that photo of Virginia Madsen in the white trench coat. I love her. When it gets humid here, our hair is practically identical.

Well, enough of this relaxing and enjoying yourself. It's 4 AM here and I have to write another god damn review.

Happy new year, sweetie!!!

Ryan Kelly said...

Jake, entering the world of cinephilia shouldn't 'require' you to love or hate anyone, but I see what you mean. There's a lot of Spielberg hating, though I think of a lot of that is due to the fact that he's arguably the most successful (monetarily speaking) director the medium has ever produced. That in and of itself is going to create a backlash.

With respect to Tetro, I think that and Youth Without Youth indicate that Coppola is going to b putting out extremely rich works at this particular juncture in his career. But I'm one of the few who truly loves Youth Without Youth.

Ryan Kelly said...

Miranda, thank you very much for the praise of my list. You always have nothing but the kindest of things to say (about me, anyway)!

Glad to see that you too love Virginia Madsen, who is extraordinarily talented, not to mention gorgeous. I just love her in that movie. And another great touch to her role in A Prairie Home Companion is that a nearly identical woman --- a blonde in a white trenchcoat --- symbolized death in Altman's Brewster McCloud, a silly mess of a movie, but a very enjoyable silly mess.

And a Happy New Year to you M.!

Jake said...

Ryan: I certainly would never shift my tastes simply to fit what I perceived was a trend among more "serious" critics and scholars, but I do understand some of the criticisms directed at him: that his sentimentality can be cheap at times (I don't think it is as often as his detractors do) and that he inadvertently setting in motion the collapse of New Hollywood and the proliferation of tacky blockbusters. But I think he has a skill with the blockbuster that his imitators never had, a perfect visual sense with the good sense to to give us some moments with characters outside the action to make us care about what happens to them. He doesn't do it to nearly the same degree as Michael Mann, but would Jaws have been a tenth as good if we didn't spend most of the film with the characters, not the shark?

The Kid said...

Awesome list. Need to watch many of the movies that you listed!

Ryan Kelly said...

Jake, as much as I admire the man I have criticisms of him myself, but I can't help but feel a lot of his detractors were just dying to rip him to shreds for everything he does. He can't win with some people. For instance, the biggest Spielberg detractor I've ever known at once accuses him of 'fascism' for delivering a 'pro-violence' message in Saving Private Ryan, and when I pointed out that Munich is an anti-violence movie, he accused him of moral relativism.

You hear the claim that claim all the time, that Spielberg, along with Lucas, destroyed the 'New Hollywood' or 'American Renaissance' or whatever you want to call it, and I just don't agree; I think he was a vital element of it. Jaws is always cited as the movie that invented the blockbuster as we know it and, from a marketing standpoint, that's a fact. But that's a change that was bound to happen someday anyway, it's more or less incidental that Jaws was the first movie mass distributed. Because really, in what way does Jaws resemble the blockbusters being pumped out today? It's a story of three, not particularly attractive men, very character focused, and for the first hour the pacing is very slow. What about The Towering Inferno or The Poseidon Adventure, two movies that predate Jaws that have much more in common with the empty, formulaic blockbusters that pollute multiplexes today?

Ryan Kelly said...

The Kid, thanks for the praise and thanks for reading. Should you watch the movies I listed please share your thoughts on them.

Eric R. said...

Ryan, I'm curious about your selection of Inland Empire into the list. Now I'm going to admit that I'm not particularly fond of David Lynch's films (even though I loved Mulholland Drive) because often I feel like he's simply confusing us without purpose. In Inland Empire I didn't have the smallest sense of what was happening. However, in Mulholland I was sort of able to piece things together and come up with a few theories of my own. It was a much more enjoyable and thought-provoking film.

How would you rank your experience of watching Inland to that of Mulholland Drive? Plus, do you think it's possible to enjoy a film that you don't at all understand?

I will definitely rewatch Inland Empire soon but I'm not so certain that a second viewing will make it any more simpler.

Ryan Kelly said...

Eric, I understand your complaint with Lynch, but I've never found him opaque just for the sake of being opaque. One of the things I find most interesting about Lynch is the way he's balanced making distinct surreal art and working within mainstream confines. After Eraserhead he made The Elephant Man, Dune, and Blue Velvet, which are all as bizarre in their own right as Eraserhead, but certainly a a little more streamlined. And he's worked in television, too, where he balanced his sensibility with pretty standard television formula.

Mulholland and Inland Empire, in spite of having a similar setting, are about as polar opposite as movies can be. Mulholland Dr. is simply gorgeous to look at, while Inland Empire is decidedly ugly. The connections in Mulholland Dr. are a little more concrete and thus the movie is easier to 'solve', Inland Empire is a puzzle where the pieces don't even seem to fit together.

Yes, I think it's possible to enjoy a movie you don't quite understand, because some works aren't really meant to be understood, and I think Inland Empire is one of them. It's meant to be felt, it's meant to inspire an intense reaction, and I think it's a work that challenges the audience to bring something to the table themselves.

A second viewing may not make it simpler, but at least you'll know what to expect from it.

Out of curiosity which Lynch movies have you seen? Much as I like Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire, I'm not prepared to call either of them among my favorites of his.

Eric R. said...

I've seen a good number of his films including Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead, Dune, The Elephant Man, and Inland Empire.

So far I have deeply appreciated Mulholland while disliking and sometimes hating the rest. I especially hate Dune.

Stephen said...

This is brilliantly written.

I'm glad to see films by Godard and Miyazaki here (in my opinion the two greatest filmmakers working today) but I would have included Notre Musique instead of Eloge de l'Amour.

Godard's characters are often empty vessels, mouthpieces for philosophical or political stances but, while in other people's films this may detract, it never does with Godard.

His films are always thought-provoking and beautiful. You say Spielberg has the greatest eye in Cinema. I say Godard's compositions are the most striking. There's always something to absorb in a Godard film - music, poetry, philosophy, farce, satire, pretentiousness and sincerity. Most films exercise the heart or the mind. Godard gives you a full-body workout. He is the master of the art.

I agree with you on A.I. and Femme Fatale, both of which I consider the best works of the respective directors.

For me The New World is the film of the decade, beautiful beyond words. I felt critics misunderstood the story slightly. They seemed to see the natives as pure and uncorrupted and yet I saw greed and misunderstanding on both sides mediated by the romantic relationships.

I don't see eye to eye with you on Inglourious Basterds (I wrote an essay on it at my blog).

Sorry if I've gone on but I really enjoyed reading your thoughts (and I'm glad you found my blog of interest too).

Ryan Kelly said...

Stephen, I may not think Godard and Miyazaki are the very best directors working, but they are absolute giants and the cream of the crop in terms of film makers. Miyazaki is one of a small handful of directors saving animation from the absolute fringes, and Godard has been a giant for half a century now.

Indeed, Godard is another of cinema's great eyes. He has the ability to make every composition absolutely staggering. In terms of visual artists, he's just about without equal.

The New World is indeed in a class of its own. On my list, only A.I. and Shirin are films I would put on the same pedestal as truly tremendous works of art. And I agree, I think the film doesn't fall into the typical white guilt trap of making the Natives pure and beautiful, and the Europeans ugly and murderous.

Thank you for stopping in, Stephen, and never apologize for sharing your thoughts. I love when my posts inspire a substantial discussion.

bill r. said...

Hold on now! I never said that MISSION TO MARS was great or anything. I just don't think it's all that bad. Come on, Greg. Use your memory better.

Great list, Ryan. I won't both counting how many of these films I still haven't seen, because that would be depressing, but I particularly love seeing GANGS OF NEW YORK on here. What a fantastic film. Deeply flawed, yes, but its strangeness, visual creativity, and that Day-Lewis performance, more than make up for it. And yes, the absence of CGI is noted and appreciated, Martin Scorsese.

Also, that image from WAR OF THE WORLDS sums up why I love that film better than I ever could.

Ryan Kelly said...

Yes, I am the only one who champions Mission to Mars as a truly great movie! Greg needs to stop drinking. Or start drinking. I forget how it works with him.

I agree, Gangs of New York may be flawed on a structural level, but it's such a multifaceted portrait of America during that time, and movies so often tend to whitewash that period. Gangs is the real America.

So glad you love War of the Worlds as much as I do. Such a misunderstood film.

bill r. said...

I think that maybe people are coming around on WAR OF THE WORLDS. There are still complaints about the son surviving, which frankly I agree with, but overall when I see the film referenced, there is more admiration, at least for its visual mastery, than there used to be.

As pieces of pure direction, WAR OF THE WORLDS and MUNICH are really stunning, and how anyone can persist in thinking that Spielberg is not, for all his faults, top-class, is beyond me.

Ryan Kelly said...

Bill, I've noticed the same thing seems to be happening with A.I.; people are moving past the fact that the movie doesn't satisfy, or subverts, expectations and are beginning to appreciate the film for what it is. I think if people a few years from now need to be reminded of what the open wounds of 9/11 and the Iraqi Occupation felt like, War of the Worlds will serve as a stark reminder.

Yes it is a little ridiculous that the son survives a huge wall of fire, but the Wells novel also ends with an improbable and sentimental family reunion. And Spielberg's been doing shit like that since Richard Dreyfus popped up, almost magically, at the end of Jaws.

The one-two punch of War of the Worlds and Munich is what completely turned me around on Spielberg. Not that I ever hated the guy but those movies completely shifted my perspective on him. The films are so different, yet so alike.

HenryJ said...

Also, I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't mention fellow blogger Davey Morrison's own essay on Miller's Happy Feet that he published just recently, and boy - it's a real humdinger.

http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-9888-Salt-Lake-City-Movie-Events-Examiner~y2009m12d31-Happy-Feet-The-expansion-of-spiritual-and-moral-pointofview

Anonymous said...

Nice post and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Say thank you you as your information.

Ryan Kelly said...

You had a college assignment that had something to do with the last 10 years in film? I'm envious.

Davey Morrison said...

AWESOME list. I, like anyone else, don't agree with every inclusion and exclusion, but that's what makes a list worthwhile. Lots of stuff here I'll be checking out soon. And thanks for the shout-out, HenryJFilmist! :)

rado said...

Great list. I love most of the films and half of them are among my all-time favourites. "Mission to Mars" is great too. Regards.

Ryan Kelly said...

Many thanks! If you liked this one, maybe you'll agree with my best of the year list, which will be published on Saturday (no, really).

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