Friday, December 25, 2009

Top Films of the 2000s--20 to 11

What you all really wanted for Christmas--the next installment of this list!

20. All the Real Girls (2003)
David Gordon Green's excellent story of a relationship in an Appalachian textile town. A simple story, but a very good one. Really one of the most underrated films of the decade.

19. The 25th Hour (2002)
Spike Lee's second finest hour in the 2000s. While not every scene works, and a few are kind of bad, it's Lee at his best, with a great lead character (Edward Norton) and a great secondary character (New York City). The relationship of the film to 9/11 is not strictly necessary but only makes the film richer, capturing a place and time while also capturing a very non-political character within that space.

18. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
Alfono Cuaron's breakthrough movie of 2 men and a woman on a trip through Mexico. While I wonder what I'll think of the somewhat over the top narration the next time I watch this, the story is first rate, particularly in its examination of modern Mexican gender roles.

17. You Can Count on Me (2000)
Laura Linney at her finest, in this Kenneth Lonergan film about a single mother who struggles when her fuck up brother comes to town. Mark Ruffalo's performance as the brother almost matches Linney, creating one of the decade's best family drama.

16. Dirty Pretty Things (2002)
Stephen Frears' fantastic film about immigrants in London. Scary as hell, great writing, solid acting. In fact, I feel that this is the first of the truly great films of the decade. I love all the films below this, but Dirty Pretty Things reaches another level--that rare 10 out of 10 I give movies on IMDB. Literally flawless

15. Grizzly Man (2005)
Werner Herzog's fascinating documentary about Timothy Treadwell, the lunatic self-proclaimed bear protector eaten by grizzlies. How much of it is true or not remains debatable, but its certainly a great story and one of the best films about environmentalism ever made.

14. Juno (2007)
Jason Reitman's film. Or should I say Diablo Cody's. There's been a huge backlash against Cody after the (supposedly though I didn't see it) Jennifer's Body. Regardless of the qualities of that film, I don't think any backlash should affect how people perceive her work here. It's a great script, accepted without revision, arguably for the first time in film history. Some might say the language is too mannered, and it will be interesting to watch how the film ages. Others criticized Juno at the time for not presenting abortion as a more appealing option, but whatever. She has an abortion and there's no film. Anyway, both Ellen Page and Michael Cera are really great, as are Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. I think the best part of the film might be that whereas most films would paint Garner as a boring woman keeping her man down, here she's the hero in the end.

13. When the Levees Broke (2006)
Spike Lee's tour de force on Hurricane Katrina. One of the best documentaries I have ever seen. Tremendously powerful. Some criticized it for allowing conspiracy theories about the government intentionally making black people suffer to gain credence, but given the history of African-Americans in New Orleans, can't we all see why they might think this, even if it's not true. This is the singular document not only of Katrina but of the Bush Administration, highlighting the utter incompetence, indifference, and negligence of the worst president since Andrew Johnson. Utterly brilliant.

12. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007)
One of the finest films of the best yearly crop of movies since the 1970s, Cristian Mungiu's film is also the finest yet made in the Romanian film renaissance of the last several years. A great late communist companion to The Lives of Others, 4 Months is the tale of a woman trying to get an illegal abortion in 1980s Romania. Powerful and often deeply frightening, it reminds us of how much life sucked behind the Iron Curtain and how tenuous women's control over their own bodies remain today.

11. No Country for Old Men (2007)
The Coen brothers' finest film of the decade. A lot of hipster critics have pushed The Man Who Wasn't There in their top of the decade lists, but this makes little sense to me. I called it The Film That Wasn't There at the time, and in fact it ranks well below O Brother Where Art Thou and Intolerable Cruelty in the Coen brothers oeuvre. But No County outranks them all. Interestingly, it's probably Cormac McCarthy's worst book, but in part because of that it makes the most sense to turn into a film. Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh is probably the decade's best personification of evil, an issue that was a real problem in the book. But Bardem's cold-hearted malice humanizes that a little bit and brings the film together.