Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Best films of the decade - Collecting candidates

As we aim for the last several weeks of 2009, it seems like as good a time as any to think about the best films of the 00 decade. (It'd be nice if we could include a Bond film to the list, and I think ultimately we can put Casino Royale on the list.) I don't have a preset idea of how long the list should be, and I don't think it's terribly meaningful. For example, the 150th best film of the 70s was certainly better than the 50th best film of the 90s.

I'm more inclined to try to sort the list by genre. But to start, I'll just look through the lists of awards from each year and include or exclude the best films from that year, with a bit of commentary.

2000:
Best Picture winner: Gladiator
other nominees: Chocolat; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Erin Brockovich; Traffic
other notables: Requiem for a Dream, Shadow of the Vampire, Pollock, Almost Famous

Of the above listed, for me the only must-include film is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. While I enjoyed Gladiator, it's little more than an action film with neat CGI. I've heard great things about Requiem for a Dream, but haven't had the stomach to face it.

p.s. Best In Show deserves mention in at least a couple categories.

2001:
Best Picture Winner: A Beatiful Mind
other nominees: Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, The LotR: the Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge
other notables: Shrek, Training Day, Mullholland Drive, Amelie, Memento, The Royal Tenenbaums, Vanilla Sky, A Knight's Tale

You might expect me to automatically include the Nash biography, but I found its treatment of schizophrenia to be too magical for my tastes.
Shrek has to be included in any list of the decade's best animated films - at least the first of the three. The LotR trilogy certainly has to be included somehow. Moulin Rouge would definitely be on my list of the decade's best musicals (way ahead of Chicago). In the sci-fi category, I'd go against a lot of the sentiment at the time and exclude Memento as incoherent crap, while reserving judgment on Vanilla Sky. If only it didn't feature Tom Cruise, it'd be a lock!

Amelie is a lock, certainly. While Denzel was great in Training Day, I haven't felt that the film really has kept my interest well. OTOH, A Knight's Tale is certainly on my list of the best popcorn films of the decade.

One film from 2001 that has grown on me a lot over the past decade is The Royal Tenenbaums. This story of a dysfunctional family of geniuses initially frustrated me because it didn't seem to go anywhere, but now I think it's brilliant.

That leaves us with one more film, Gosford Park, which has been on my list since it came out. This Robert Altman-directed version of a British manor mystery is utterly delicious.

p.s. Donnie Darko.

2002:

Best Picture: Chicago
other nominees: Gangs of New York, The Hours, The LotR: the Two Towers, The Pianist
other notables: Spirited Away, Adaptation, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Far From Heaven, Bowling for Columbine

Even with a short list of musicals to choose from, I cannot include Chicago. The casting was terrible, by which I mean Renee Zellwegger. In fact, I find the entire Best Picture list to be weak.

Y Tu Mama Tambien is an amusing piece of soft porn masquerading as art. I could include it in a list of "best socially acceptable porn", I suppose.

Bowling for Columbine raises interesting questions about Michael Moore's documentaries. From a technical standpoint, they are not the best, but they cover the most important topics - topics that are conscientiously avoided by the rich and powerful studios.

The only unqualified entry from this year is Spirited Away, which not only soars to the top of the list of the decade's best animated films, but is surely on the list of best films overall.

Adaptation makes the cut. I'm a big Charlie Kaufman fan.

p.s. Bend it Like Beckham. Gonna mull over what to do with this one.

2003:
Best Picture: The LotR: the Return of the King
Other nominees: Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit
other notables: Finding Nemo, Cold Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl, Whale Rider, The Barbarian Invasions

Already commented about The LotR trilogy. At the time, I was a huge fan of Mystic River. Has it held up? I'm unsure. Master and Commander and Seabiscuit are both simple, light fare.

Lost in Translation is definitely on the list.

The first installment of Pirates of the Caribbean is certainly on my list of best action films. I have a soft spot for Whale Rider. It'll fit in somehow.

2004:

Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby
other nominees: The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways
other notables: Hotel Rwanda, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, House of Flying Daggers, Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events, The Incredibles, Troy, Super Size Me

A good list for Best Picture. I'm a big fan of Million Dollar Baby, which makes the list for a number of reasons. The only nominee definitely not passing muster is The Aviator, but it's hard to say much about Finding Neverland since I've never seen it. Ray is on the list of best biopics. Amazing job by Jamie Foxx. And Sideways is also on the list, for a number of reasons.

In retrospect, it's hard to be happy with the process that left Hotel Rwanda off the Best Picture List. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has the top spot in my list of the best sci-fi films of the decade. The Incredibles has a spot on the list of the best animated films.

p.s. Der Untergang
p.p.s. I saw Land of Plenty (sort of) in France. I need to see it again because I fell asleep during the film. It was never released in the US.

2005:
Best Picture: Crash
other nominees: Brokeback Mountain; Capote; Good Night, and Good Luck; Munich
other notables: Howl's Moving Castle, Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Syriana, The Constant Gardener, Memoirs of a Geisha, King Kong, Pride and Prejudice

The obvious one here is Brokeback Mountain. At the time I liked Crash just as much, but Brokeback seems, in retrospect, to be the far greater film.

I liked Capote, but it's hurt by being in competition with Infamous, a film from 2006 covering pretty much exactly the same material.

While Howl's Moving Castle is not quite at the same level of Spirited Away, the previous film by master Hiyao Miyazaki, it definitely merits inclusion. Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit similarly deserves special acclaim. (That reminds me - I need to add Chicken Run from 2000.)

2005 was a big year for political films.
Syriana is an interesting film that may be just on the outside looking in. Good Night, and Good Luck is just a bit too preachy for my tastes, though I do appreciate its sentiments. The Constant Gardener definitely makes the cut. Does this inclusion show my weakness for Rachel Weisz? Perhaps - but I do think that inclusion of an intelligent, well-formed female character is a strong positive for any film.

There is probably some category for March of the Penguins.

p.s. The Forty-Year Old Virgin. On the list of best comedies.

p.p.s. The Proposition. And The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

2006:
Best Picture: The Departed
Other nominees: Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen
Other notables: Blood Diamond, The Last King of Scotland, Volver, Little Children, Notes on a Scandal, Children of Men, Pan's Labyrinth, The Illusionist, The Black Dahlia, The Prestige, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima,

Wow. This was quite a good year!

I've already blogged about how much I enjoyed The Departed. Among the long list of those films above, the ones that I think must be included somehow are

Volver: best foreign-language (not to mention best prosthetic ass)
Little Miss Sunshine: best performance by a kid
The Last King of Scotland: for a couple reasons
Children of Men: on the list for best sci-fi
Pan's Labyrinth: on best fantasy list
Notes on a Scandal might be on the main list. I really like the acting in this film. Same goes for Little Children.

I need to see the two Eastwood films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima at some point.

...and if I thought 2006 was good, here comes 2007, which has the film of the decade and a second film that would have been best of its year most years. The third-best
film is no slouch, either.

2007:
Best Picture: No Country For Old Men
other nominees: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood
other notables: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Ratatouille, Eastern Promises, Charlie Wilson's War, American Gangster, I'm Not There, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 3:10 to Yuma, Sicko, In the Valley of Elah

I'm not going to beat around the bush here. No Country for Old Men is my favorite film of the decade.

There Will Be Blood
features Daniel Day-Lewis in what I think is the best performance by a single actor in the decade.
Most years, Michael Clayton would be a good candidate for best picture, but it's not close for 2007.

Among films that remained below the radar, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a great one.

I thought Sicko was better than Bowling for Columbine or Farenheit 9/11.

Juno will be on a list somehow, as will Eastern Promises. And Sunshine.

2008:

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Other nominees: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader,
Other notables: The Dark Knight, Doubt, Iron Man

After 2006 and 2007, a relatively weak year. Slumdog Millionaire will at best be listed in a minor category. The year is most notable for the burst of super-hero films, especially The Dark Knight, which is currently listed as the 9th best film ever at IMDB.com, and is the all-time #2 on the list of domestic sales (after Titanic).

Well, there will be other kinds of categories. The Harry Potter films will need to be accounted for somehow.

7 comments:

ilse said...

I have seen, on average, 1.4 films you mention in each year.

Maybe I need to get out more.

NeonKlaws said...

We're doing much the same on our site, one writer has already put up a top 100 and one other is about to. Certainly tough having to leave some stuff out.

we've a poll if anyone fancies voting for there's. Good to see what everyone else thinks is worth.

www.lastsiteontheleft.blogspot.com

Sasha said...

Sideways seriously stunk. I wanted to like it ...

Also you have neglected Ghost Dog (which I adore), Kill Bill (Vol. Your Choice), and City of God. I'd include a History of Violence but I suspect most wouldn't. Others would come to mind in a conversation.

Sasha said...

Inglourious Basterds deserves consideration too. See, you sucked me into the game.

Sasha said...

I forgot Motorcycle Diaries. I guess I need to make my own list.

whispers said...

Ghost Dog is from 1999. Loved it, but it's too early.

I haven't seen City of God. Or Motorcycle Diaries.

I have to figure out what to do with Kill Bill and Inglorious Basterds. IB had great scenes and great performances but didn't hang together as a whole very well.

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