No film on this list won the Oscar® for Best Picture (yet). That’s because during the Noughties (I picked it up from the Brits) the Academy was too concerned with political agendas, cronyism, lifetime achievements, hindsight corrective voting, and the de facto exclusion of non-Hollywood films. Lucky for us, all I’m concerned with is quality. I present you the best films of the decade.
10. Batman Begins
What’s that? Why is The Dark Knight not on the list? Well let me give it to you straight. TDK has one thing going for it and it’s called Heath Ledger. Why oh why was he relegated to a Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role win when Daniel Day-Lewis can get a lead nomination for the dreadful Gangs of New York despite Leo receiving top billing? Batman Begins on the other hand has a much more engaging story, an actual plot twist, and far less Bale laryngitis.
9. Spider-Man 2
The second (and last) comic hero film on this list. Let’s face it, during this time Hollywood capitalized off the medium, finding inspiration and more often than not profit from characters born from illustrated pages. Spider-Man 2 ties Tim Burton’s Batman as the best comic based film. All the hang-ups I had with the first entry were more than corrected. The cartoonish special effects were upgraded. Tobey turned in a vastly underrated performance. The bad guy was far less laughable. As intense and well paced as it was, there is no doubt that Peter’s internal struggle is what makes the film worthy of acknowledgment. His teetering ethical dilemma ups the emotional investment in the character, making for payoff after rewarding payoff throughout the movie. Even had me in tears when it modernizes Tarzan and Jane with Pete’s web serving as an analogue for a tree.
8. Minority Report
Steven Spielberg is accustomed to making great movies, but I was originally weary of Minority Report. Initially it looked like Logan’s Run but boy was I shocked to find that it capitalizes beautifully on an array of sci-fi concepts ranging from precognizant ethical concerns to high-end advertising. The chase sequences are lyrical, especially the one where Tom Cruise and Samantha Morton elude the police with the aid of her future telling intuition. Special credit for the scene where Cruise reads the Miranda warning, one of if not the most emotional scene in film history. Speaking of Tom, I’ve heard from dozens of people that they simple hate ever film he’s in. He jumped on Oprah’s couch; that’s not a hate crime people!
7. Ocean’s Eleven
Ocean’s Eleven is a high style ode to the Rat Pack, with beautiful visuals, a smooth soundtrack, and a big cast playing colorful characters. This is a fun movie. Everything clicks as George Clooney and Brad Pitt head a team of hooligans looking to rob three Vegas casinos in one night. Steven Soderbergh plays with the narrative just a tad, leaving much of the planning out of earshot for the audience. This allows everything to unfold before us with surprising effect. One thing bothers me and that’s an exchange of dialog between Rusty (Pitt) and Yen (Qin Shaobo). Yen is asking a vital question about the heist in Mandarin, and Rusty answers in English. Suppose that Rusty is enough of a jerk to know Mandarin and reply in English, he’s setting the team up for trouble because it’s an almost certainty that Yen would have understood better if answered in the same language.
6. Batoru rowaiaru (Battle Royale)
I discovered this film in ’04, which is way earlier than most of my peers. Essentially a dramatized forerunner of the reality TV game show, Battle Royale answers the what if question that lingered in our minds during High School: what if all my classmates had to kill each other to survive? That’s what happens to a class assigned to a remote island to battle it out, last one alive gets to leave. The variables at play make it even more fun. Two students are sent in to disrupt the mostly friendly crowd. One, Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando), is a cold-blooded killing machine, who apparently signed up for fun. The other is Kawada (Taro Yamamoto), whose previous involvement in the game has led him on a quest for answers. If you thought Ledger was great in TDK, these two are right up your alley. Yeah, it’s The Terminator, but it wasn’t any better the first time I saw it.
5. A.I. Artificial Intelligence
There are sad movies that make you cry, then there is Steven Spielberg’s 2001 futuristic take on Pinocchio known as A.I. Haley Joel Osment stars as David, a robot built to replace a child. The first of his kind, David is allowed the ability to love. What really gets me is his sidekick (yet again a supporting character who overtakes a film), a “Super-Toy” stuffed bear that goes by Teddy. I have no reservations in saying this; Teddy is the all-time, most neglected, fictional cinematic character, not played directly by a human. Gizmo and Gollum get all the love, but Teddy is a real saint. Nearing the film’s end his loyalty to David kicks-off a funeral procession of tears culminating in a scene that some will find “too much”. I have never seen so many people cry at once in my life than on July 4, 2001: the summer day I saw A.I. in a packed theatre.
*NOTE: Jude Law has been shamefully overlooked for his nuanced performance as Gigolo Joe. Watch how his neck snaps when he starts up his in-head MP3 player. Good stuff.
I haven’t seen every movie this year. It should be obvious by the low number of comments on this site just how few visitors I have in the grand scheme of things, and I need about a million per month in order to get the studio’s attention so they can grant me the full Entertainment Tonight treatment, thus I could see every movie. To the best of my knowledge, Up is the finest achievement in motion pictures this year. Disney/Pixar had the audacity to make a children’s film with a geriatric for the lead… and it pays off greatly. Up is an unexpected emotional rollercoaster. The first 15 minutes will have you in tears, and the last will in circular fashion put you back in them only for completely different reasons. Up contains the most powerful montage in cinematic history and the most imaginative action thrills of the year—all in a package suitable for everyone.
3. Shiqi sui de dan che (Beijing Bicycle)
The Chinese equivalent to Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief… and it’s better! By expanding on the reasons why someone would take a bike, as well as establishing it’s inherit value (apparently a nice bike is too a Chinese high school student as a MKIV Supra Turbo is to one here), developing both sides of thestory, and infusing it with sublime cinematography, director Wang Xiaoshuai crafts an unforgettable tale of struggling youths who each feel a sense of ownership over a single bicycle. The fallout at the end evolves into one of the most realistic fights I’ve seen onscreen, and again had me in tears.
2. The Prestige
I give The Prestige max stars despite the casting of Scarlet Johansen, it’s that good. Christopher Nolan’s second appearance on this list is a tale about magic and the pursuit of revenge. What I admire most is that we can identify equally with rival magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale). It’s a fitting puzzle of illusion that will make you watch a second time just to be sure there aren’t any plot holes. A stunning tale matched effectively with a visceral sense of sounds and visuals. The Prestige is awesome.
I didn’t save this spot for just any movie, and if you’ve made it this far then we are on the same brainwave. You’ve likely seen Memento, and if you have then you know it’s merit. Christopher Nolan’s stateside debut was a high production value, low budget (relatively) independent that was picked-up by Fox. Guy Pierce stars as Leonard Shelby, a man with a lackluster short-term memory. In fact, he can’t remember anything after a conversation changes subject. This makes it very difficult for him to track down his wife’s killer. Memento is the gold standard for creative storytelling. It starts at the chronological end, with transitional scenes shown in black & white, until both meet-up somewhere near the beginning; and it’s remarkably done in a way that is as sensible as it effectively reconstructive the protagonist’s condition. By midway Nolan has you thinking one way, then jerks you another, and by the end you don’t know how much of your own life you can count on. Memento is undeniable genius, and the masterpiece of the man who started the ‘00s/Noughties/2000s as a nobody and finished as the heir apparent for the next decade’s acclaim… but only if the Academy can get it’s act together.
Well there you have it. Please TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK BELOW and if you don’t hate me, TELL YOUR FRIENDS (I could certainly use the traffic). See you next year.