Okay so I just did the best films of 2009. Phew. Done with the end of the year lists. Oh wait. It’s the ending of the decade too…
Since there’s too many to list: this isn’t going to be a top 10 or 20 or whatever. Instead I’m just going to reminisce on the films these past 10 years that made a profound of impact on me.
Requiem For A Dream (2000)
No other movie has moved me as powerfully as this one but it was far from an easy trip. If you’ve talked to anyone about this film you would know that it is one of the most brutally intense, disturbing and depressing American films ever released. It’s one of those films you have to watch but might be to rough to watch again.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
There’s quirky, then there’s The Royal Tenenbaums: with a charmingly off-beat humorist style that’s so intriguing, using the word quirky is an insult. Many believe that without this film, there’d be no Arrested Development, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno or Modern Family. Not to mention, the cast is fantastic. The more you watch it. The more you discover that this movie helped reinvent the dysfunctional family genre.
Moulin Rouge (2001)
First time I heard of this film, I thought it looked horrible. Then I saw it. And I was wrong. Damn wrong. I mean, yeah the beginning is a slight step above a trip on E but it’s the over-the-top, ridiculousness of it that makes it so appealing. But what made me adore this jukebox romantic comedy/tragedy musical was how the movie quickly jolted from absolutely hilarious to completely tragic. You know what’s going to happen from the beginning but even with that in mind the film puts you in a false sense of security that a happy ending will actually occur until the disaster hits you right in the stomach. Even if a love story is too feminine or cliched for you, even the biggest elitist can’t help but love the chaotically brilliant art style and music that mashes every pop song imaginable (one moments mixes together Labelle, Nirvana and Fatboy Slim). From an artistic standpoint, this is one of the most arrestingly fantastic films of the early decade.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
I think it’s pretty obvious this was going to make the list. Sure Star Wars will always be considered THE holy trilogy in my book however The Lord of the Rings were a landmark franchise in the early 2000s. Additionally, it was a massive form of escapism that, in a post-9/11 America, was desperately needed. It was epic, it was beautiful and it helped put “nerd”-related mediums in the mainstream. In the 80s and 90s, Role Playing Games were considered either social suicide or the work of Satan. Now in 2010, half of the country’s population plays World of Warcraft. Would this have happened had LOTR never hit the screens? Possibly but one has to wonder. These movies blew my post-middle school mind. The battle at Helm’s Deep, the terror of the Ringwraiths and Orcs, the sheer hilarity at Gollum arguing with himself were just some of the highlights that made me love this trilogy. And sure, the ending of part three may have been a little long (and slightly homoerotic) but even a die hard Star Wars fanboy can’t argue that the “other” trilogy made a major impact in the 2000s.
Love, Actually (2003)
Probably my favorite romantic comedy not just of this decade, but ever. This christmas epic not only boasts a fantastic cast but also strips down the term of love to its essential elements. It’s not only love of husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend but also the love between best friends and family. The score is chillingly good, all of the side-stories are interesting and don’t just resort to one-dimensional characterization and, not to mention, it gives you that special kind of holiday spirit no film has done this momentously since It’s A Wonderful Life. That says a lot.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003-2004)
This ultra-bloody tribute to the samurai film pretty much made my freshman year. Over-the-top, violent and tons of kick-ass fun. The blood-soaked fights, perfect one-liners (“Wiggle your big toe” “I’ll collect your f–king head”) blew my post-puberty mind. Stylishly fantastic and classic Quarintino.
Garden State (2004)
I saw this film over the summer it came out and loved the hell out of it. It established everything I was feeling at the time. After all, I was in high school: angsty, confused, rebellious and desperately needed to pretentiously listen to indie rock. Garden State offered all of that, with a fantastic soundtrack to boot. It would also be one of the first films to introduce me to the indie film. Before Garden State, my favorite films were The Matrix, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. In other words, big budget flicks in the sci-fi and fantasy genre. Garden State ignited my love affair with Fox Searchlight, a studio that would put out fantastic film after fantastic film.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Yet another example of my falling in love with indie cinema. Eternal Sunshine takes a love story and blends it with science fiction, surrealism and post-modern storytelling. It’s inventive presentation, storytelling and directing style made it one of the most original films of the decade. Perhaps even the Pulp Fiction of the 00s?
March of the Penguins (2005)
I love penguins. Plain and simple. So much that when I was a kid, I adored the mediocre (compared to Don Bluth’s other works) animated film The Pebble and the Penguin soley because it had penguins. Well this documentary combined two of my favorite things: penguins AND Morgan Freeman’s voice. Honestly, you can’t for anything more. Well that and the visuals are gorgeous as hell.
The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
I can’t even count how many times I’ve watched this movie yet even still I find new moments that make me burst into laughter. This is easily one of my favorite comedies and began my belief that Judd Apatow is a comedic God.
Children Of Men (2006)
Amazing direction mixed with flawless storytelling of a dystopian world. To be honest, no words can truly describe how much I adore this film. It’s as brutal as it is beautiful.
The Fountain (2006)
An absolute feast for both the eyes and the ears with beautiful imagery utilizing macro photography instead of computer generated imagery and one of the most relentlessly perfect scores I have ever heard in my lifetime. It’s a tale of love, loss and the fight of mortality that is truly one for the ages.
A simple tale of how every personal encounter can inspire and push someone to their potential. It’s simple but what makes this film is the music. And it’s fantastic: giving off an Irish singer-songwriter vibe akin to Damien Rice. When this film came out, I was absolutely obsessed with Damien Rice and when with film came out, I was in love. Very few irish films make it big in America and when Once broke out, I was super stoked. Once showed moviegoers that a musical can be realistic and dramatic without any camp. Hopefully, Hollywood will learn from the film’s success and continue this trend. Fox Searchlight does it yet again.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
I’ll give you three reasons why I love the hell out of this film. This… and this… annnnnddddddd this… . No but in all seriousness, Daniel Day Lewis’ performance in There Will Be Blood is easily one of the best of the decade (and Paul Dano’s performance isn’t too far from top either). The cinematography and eerily magnificent score by Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood only further propels the brilliance of this film. This movie single-handedly helped reach Paul T. Anderson (one of my favorite directors) to filmmaker superstardom.
I always knew animation wasn’t just kid stuff, but this film made me not only believe it, but openly advocate that idea. Thanks to Wall-E, I am now a huge fan of animation and a devoted Pixar fanboy. If it wasn’t for this film, I wouldn’t have explored the world of underground animation from the cult favorite Fantastic Planet to the phenomenal works of Ralph Bakshi. Wall-E truly is a work of art and a visual masterpiece with some unbelievably imaginative sound design. Very few films this decade won my heart as much as this one. See it.
The Dark Knight (2008)
We all know why this is on the list. It’s the ideal superhero film and one that all other will aspire too. A monumental cinematic achievement.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Ah yes. Another Fox Searchlight pick. And third times the charm. Stylishly directed with my second favorite score ever (first obviously The Fountain), Slumdog combines Bollywood flair with American fall film grittiness in a “best of both worlds” kind of hybrid. I, along with many others, discovered the beauty of Indian cinema thanks to this gem. All this plus, the idea of telling the life of young man’s trials and tribulations through a game show is something uniquely appealing. It may be emotionally rough at times but in the end, it truly is a tale of the triumph of love and the human spirit. And in times like this, it’s something we all need pretty darn bad. So… all together now: JAI HO!
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
District 9 (2009)
I’ve discussed these two films in full in my 2009 recap. You all know how much I adore these movies but if you want to hear what I have to say about them: click here.