Saturday, December 19, 2009

Top 50 Films of the 2000s--50 to 41

The end of a decade is always a great time for lists. And I love lists.

The next 5 days will have my top 50 movies of the decade. Of course, this list could change by the day. And there's some films that I haven't seen, especially from this year, but from all years. But it's the best I could do.

50. In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Paul Haggis' film was unjustly ignored by a public unwilling to think about the consequences of Iraq. While voters turned against the war because we weren't winning, the last thing a nation enamored of its own kickassitude wanted to think about was the horrors soldiers and their families faced. Clearly the best of the early Iraq War films, Tommy Lee Jones gives a fantastic performance as the father of a soldier killed after his return from Iraq. Also, it was shot in Albuquerque. Of course, so is every film these days, but I do like seeing good actors driving past my favorite restaurants.

49. Summer Hours (2008)

Oliver Assayas' film about a family dealing with the death of its matriarch and what the kids are going to do with her rural estate. Very French in all the good (great acting, good writing) and bad (oh poor France--look what globalization is doing to us!) ways, but also a very solid film.

48. Climates (2006)

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Turkish film about a sterile relationship. Very Bergmanesque, which definitely appeals to me. This is exactly the kind of film that separates people who like film and poseurs--its slow pacing and ambiguous ending really irritates those who don't want to think too hard about their films, even if they have reasonably good taste. Like anyone who is exclusionary, you can guess where I see myself.

47. The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)

Ken Loach's best film of the decade. About the Irish independence movement and its fractures upon the limited success it achieved in 1920. Literally brother against brother. That Loach frames it this way gets at the less than subtle propaganda his critics accuse him of. They aren't really wrong and Loach is wildly inconsistent, but his commitment to the cause of freedom around the world buys him points. Plus he doesn't take the easy way out in this film, making it very difficult for the viewers to pick sides between the Irish factions--though we can all hate the British. That conservative Britons were pissed at Loach for this film also recommends it.

46. Samaritan Girl (2004)

Kim Ki-Duk might take the title of most interesting director of the decade. With widely varying films, some of which include great violence and other Buddhist meditations, Kim consistently challenges the viewer. Samaritan Girl is about a pair of girls--one of whom becomes a prostitute and the other serves as a sort of pimp. When the prostitute dies, her friend takes her place, but not in the ways you'd expect. A really interesting movie.

45. Kings and Queen (2004)

This is probably about 10 spots too low, but I'm going to go with it. Arnaud Desplechin's parallel story of 2 ex-lovers is just fantastic. Mathieu Amalric is one of my 5 favorite actors of the decade and he certainly shines here.

44. Goodbye Solo (2008)

Ramin Bahrani films about the immigrant experience have been a highlight of American film this decade (such as Chop Shop). His film about an African immigrant working as a tax driver and estranged from his Mexican wife trying to keep a cranky white guy from killing himself by throwing himself off a mountain might scream indie overwroughtness with a less sure director, but Bahrani makes it work.

43. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Perhaps a surprise, but this film holds up to repeated viewings better than most from the Apatow factory. There are some amazingly funny bits through this film. This has been a real strong decade for American comedy (particularly the Will Ferrell films from early in the decade and the Apatow-related films from late) and Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of the highlights.

42. Head-On (2004)

Another great immigration film Fatih Akin's masterpiece about Turkish immigrants in Germany does a great job getting at the divided identities so many immigrants face. He migrated 20 years ago and has become a drunk. She is the daughter of immigrants who wants to party and have sex but comes from a conservative family. Desperate she attempts suicide, they meet in the hospital, and a fitful and tragic relationship results. If it sounds like a good time, you're right!

41. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)

Sidney Lumet's great comeback film (really one of the most underrated directors in American film history) features Philip Seymour Hoffman as a complete sleazeball who convinces his idiot brother (Ethan Hawke) to rob their parents' jewelry store. Mom dies as a result and complications set in. The end may not shock you, but it's a well-executed first-rate film.