Decade in Review
Ten Years of Cinema Revisited 2000-2009 (Part Three)
Not gonna lie. When taking a fresh look at this third part of my Top 50 Films list 2000-2009 I was struck how much this would be different had I been making this list right now. Most notable change? Last year I was asked to compile a top ten list of the 21st century and Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love came in at number two. Yeah. That’s a pretty big leap, but that movie has just stuck with me and enraptured my soul in ways few other motion pictures released since the year 2000 have. I feel safe calling it a masterpiece at this point, it’s perfection close to undeniable.
Next thing I notice? I adore the initial Jason Bourne trilogy, and still feel 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum is the best of those first three films. That said, I’m not sure it would make my 2000-2009 top 50 if I compiled this list again today let alone clock in at an impressive 22. It’s still one of the best motion pictures of the decade. Just not so amazing I’d list it quite so high.
Other than that, pretty certain The Hurt Locker, Bad Education (Pedro Almodóvar’s third film in this 50) and Far From Heaven would all move up into the top 20, while The Incredibles and The Prestige would move back a few spots yet still remain on the list. Even with that being the case, I still think this is a pretty terrific set of ten motion pictures, all of which I could watch again at the drop of the hat whenever the opportunity to do so might arise.
Anyhow, these were my selections for my favorite films of 2000-2009 slots 30 thru 21 along with the original blurbs I wrote for each of them in December of 2009. As per the previous entries in this series, these thoughts I had a decade ago happily remain mostly unchanged.
30. House of Flying Daggers (2004) (D. Zhang Yimou)
Zhang Yimou’s amazing saga of love and destiny is a passionately romantic martial arts masterwork defying both gravity and convention. While Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon stole most of the genre’s thunder back in 2000, In my opinion this 2004 release is the movie I think where all the wuxia elements came together in near-perfect union. [Theatrical Review]
29. The Prestige (2006) (D. Christopher Nolan)
What is fact? What is fiction? Those are the central questions haunting the characters trying to make their way through the twisted labyrinth of Christopher Nolan’s beautiful The Prestige. Heroes become villains while mentors discover tragic melancholy in the hearts of their best pupils. The film is a gigantic puzzle box of deceit and deception, while Wally Pfister’s stunning cinematography is an absolute triumph that only augments and deepens the complicated themes lurking at the heart of Nolan’s magical 19th century mystery tour. [Theatrical Review]
28. Bad Education (2004) (D. Pedro Almodóvar)
My final Pedro Almodóvar entry, this delightfully nasty gender-bending noir is nothing less than sensational. A fever dream of lust and larceny, Bad Education both celebrates its genre while also busting it to pieces upon its sequin-strewn floor. There is sex. There is violence. There is love. There is desperation. This melodrama is fueled with emotions of all variations, colors and sizes, everything coming together to create a glorious Spanish mélange that devastatingly titillates as it builds to its tragically lust-fueled conclusion. [Theatrical Review]
27. The Hurt Locker (2008) (D. Kathryn Bigelow)
Here’s what I said about Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq War masterpiece The Hurt Locker in my theatrical review: “Fueled with adrenaline, powered by an almost volcanic sense of pace, the raw visceral power of this intense thriller is a powder keg of sweat-stained terror.” Having seen the film three times in the theater I still think that quote sums it up best, the acclaimed filmmaker crafting a near-masterpiece that potentially even rivals her underappreciated 1995 sci-fi classic Strange Days. [Theatrical Review]
26. The Edge of Heaven (2007) (Fatih Akin)
Director Fatih Akin flies much too far under the radar, his latest stunner The Edge of Heaven potentially his best film yet. This multigenerational three-part stunner knocked me out when I saw it during that year’s Seattle International Film Festival, so much so I ended up attending both of its public festival screenings. Its poignant final image has left a haunting imprint upon me, the debates generated by the climax some of my favorite of the decade. [Theatrical Review]
25. Far From Heaven (2002) (Todd Haynes)
In my imagination Douglas Sirk was standing in his grave cheering the moment Todd Haynes’ incredible Far From Heaven had its first screening for a general audience. This epic of loss, racism, homophobia and regret is a startling homage to a 1950s style of filmmaking that many have tried to emulate but very few have succeeded in actually doing so. Star Julianne Moore’s heartbreaking performance is amongst her absolute best, while Dennis Quaid and Dennis Haysbert are so good in key supporting roles they disappear inside the shells of their complicatedly conflicted characters. [Theatrical Review]
24. Moulin Rouge! (2001) (D. Baz Luhrmann)
Why did gonzo Australian director Baz Luhrmann make a wild and crazy musical like Moulin Rouge!? Because he can, can, can, that’s why. Bad jokes aside, if a discussion happened chronicling how the musical reemerged as a viable genre during the 2000s this is where it would begin. While not a massive success, I doubt movies like Chicago, Mamma Mia!, Hairspray and the upcoming Nine would have even seen the light of day had Luhrmann not unleashed the green fairy upon a luminous Nicole Kidman and a dynamite Ewan McGregor. Relentlessly over the top, this tragic musical romance is nonetheless a memorable achievement, and almost ten years later the joy I feel while watching it has not diminished one single bit.
23. The Incredibles (2004) (D. Brad Bird)
Is there a better depiction of pure bliss then the look on young ‘Dash’ Parr’s face when he realizes he’s literally running on water? I say no, there isn’t, and this is only one moment of many in director Brad Bird’s marvelous animated epic that makes this superhero saga worthy of celebration. Another Pixar success, this raucous adventure of parenthood and family is truly extraordinary. Oh. One more thing. No capes! [Theatrical Review]
22. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) (D. Paul Greengrass)
Both Batman and James Bond got themselves reinvented this decade, but as great as those reboots turned out to be neither of them could live up to the standard set by one-time Cold War literary antihero Jason Bourne. While all three chapters of this series are worthy of applause, I personally think this third chapter is the best of the series, director Paul Greengrass, star Matt Damon and screenwriters Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi achieving a balance between action, drama and suspense that’s nothing less than phenomenal. [Theatrical Review]
21. In the Mood for Love (2000) (D. Wong Kar Wai)
While I personally find Wong Kar Wai’s Chunking Express to be his most invigorating effort, In the Mood for Love is so lyrically mesmerizing it’s unquestionably his masterpiece. Both Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung steam up the screen, while Christopher Doyle’s sumptuous cinematography is as dreamlike and ephemeral as the central romance is sizzling and passionate. Moving at its own leisurely pace, this movie raises my temperature to boiling within its first 15 minutes, its idealistic lyricism a thing I cannot help but revel in every time I give this motion picture another look.
– Majority of this feature originally published on Dec. 17, 2009