Friday, December 31, 2010

The rest of the Best of the Decade. (Remember when this was happening?)

About a million years ago, give or take a coupla days, I started counting down what I think to be the best movies created between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2009.

In the interest of wrapping this sucker up before 2010 officially ends, I've decided to go ahead and lump the Top 5 together here in one post. Pretty silly for me to throw the Top 5 together in one ugly entry when I've already gone to the trouble of making separate entries for the "Bottom 5", isn't it? Yeah, I know. But it would be a whole lot sillier to not finish this thing at all, I think. But then silliness is relative. Anyway...

Starting from the bottom!

#5. Children of Men (2006) ...Dir. Alfonso Cuarón
Alfonso Cuarón is one of my favorite filmmakers working today, and I believe this to be his best film. Clive Owen is quietly terrific. Michael Caine is better still. By far the best dystopian future movie made in a decade, and miles better than the novel upon which it is based (a claim which can only rarely be made with any confidence). And let's not forget those unthinkably long follow shots; massive props to DP Emmanuel Lubezki for his contributions.
#4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) ...Dir. Michel Gondry
I was a highly lost freshman in college when Eternal Sunshine was released. I vividly remember receiving a voicemail from my dad who called immediately after seeing it to enthusiastically recommend I do the same. Eventually I did, with my future (and now former) girlfriend. And really, I think it affected me more immediately than any movie has done. When a powerful piece of art enters your life at a particularly critical moment, one which might push you one way or another or another, that experience sticks with you. For my money, Charlie Kaufman is the most important filmmaker since 1999--especially impressive considering he's only had directorial control of one of his films. (Admittedly, Kaufman hasn't been a total hit factory [e.g., Human Nature, which I like but realize is far from great] but he's hit far more adventurous concepts way out of the park than any other filmmaker I can think of over the past decade-plus. Anyway, I think he's a/the champ.)
#3. No Country for Old Men (2007) ...Dir. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Hands down, the best made film of the past decade. In fact, No Country is likely the most flawlessly constructed film I've ever seen, period. It is a perfect adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel remarkable for its sparse efficiency, the story of which could easily have been stripped of all meaning and still made for a thrilling film. The Coens are better than that, though--so in command of their craft, they exploit cinema's potential completely and without any apparent effort; it's dumbfounding. I watched this movie twice in a row (that is, one screening followed immediately by the next when it was in theatres). If not for social importance(#2) and personal favoritism(#1), No Country would be the best film of the past decade by a long, long shot.
#2. 9/11 (2002) ...Dir. Jules Naudet, Gedeon Naudet, and James Hanlon
I never know what to say about this movie. In September 2001, the Naudet brothers were in NYC shooting a documentary about Manhattan fire fighters. On the 11th, two passenger jets were flown into the Twin Towers. We all know how this ends, yet it becomes easier with each passing year to put it out of our minds. This film--the best I've seen regarding 9/11--is not just a reminder of what happened but also a window into what it was like to be on the ground that day in Lower Manhattan. It's almost purely observational; what good will commentary/voiceover/interviews be once you're in the thick of a surreal living nightmare? I hope you'll forgive my preaching, but I sincerely believe that 9/11 ought to be required viewing for every American. Yes, we all know the story and don't particularly want to live it again... but what this film comprises is unfathomable until you've seen it for yourself.
#1. Synecdoche, New York (2008) ...Dir. Charlie Kaufman
When I made my Best of 2008 list two years ago, this film topped it, and the write-up I conjured then can be found here. Synecdoche is still neck-and-neck with Kieslowski's Blue in the race for the best film I've ever seen, and for good reason. Blue is perhaps the most beautiful piece of art I've ever experienced, but Synecdoche remains the richest, most complete depiction of one human being's attempt to comprehend and cope with his life. Fortunately, I don't have to consider Blue as a part of this particular countdown, so I can say with zero hesitation that Synecdoche, New York is the best film of the past decade. And then some. Watch it three times... it will change you.

Again: I apologize for the low-rent nature of this second half of the countdown. Thank you for checking in. With any luck and due diligence, I will be a decidedly more attentive movie-blogger in 2011. Stay tuned to find out!