Jeff’s best films of the decade

I like lists. Here’s one to reinvigorate the blog!

Now, keep in mind, these aren’t necessarily what I think are the best films of the decade but rather my own subjective opinion of what I liked best and was most impressed by. For example, I think I’m Not There is probably a much better film in most ways that film scholars care about than Sean of the Dead, but fuck it – Sean was much more enjoyable and I liked it better. So there.

And this is a list of 40…the following 35 are in no particular order. Top 5 of the decade are at the end. I’m going to try to keep my explanations to one sentence. Wish me luck.

I Heart Huckabees – Because of Mark Whalberg’s scene outside his house with his wife and daughter and his scene at the dinner table arguing with Richard Jenkins.

Old Joy – Because I’ve never seen a more beautiful and sad film about how hard it is to deal with old friendships once you’ve grown up and grown apart.

Children of Men – Because of how well thought out and plausible it all seems.

The Hurt Locker – Because among all of the overwrought and preachy films about the Iraq War, this one rings the most true without having some serious agenda.

The Wrestler – Because Mickey Rourke’s character is such a fucked up dad but you can’t help but pull for the poor old guy…and, of course, for Mickey Rourke.

Wendy and Lucy – Because as a film about how easy it is to fall into poverty it struck a nerve when it was released in the fall that the US financial markets went boom (and in year when most people saw Marley and Me as the “I love my dog movie,” this one came along and made me cry for reals…a whole lot.)

Waltz with Bashir – Because of the visual gimmick that worked so well for the story and the superb use of pop music throughout.

In Bruges – Because it made me stop hating Collin Farrell and for how he delivers lines lines like “One gay beer for my gay friend and one normal beer for me because…I am normal!”

The Dark Knight – Because of Heath Ledger’s reinvention of the joker…duh!

Burn After Reading – Because I never knew Brad Pitt could be such a fucking riot!

Zodiac – Because I love police procedurals and I don’t think a 2 and 1/2 hour movie has ever seemed so tightly put together.

There Will Be Blood – Because of the first 25 minutes sans dialogue and Daniel Day Lewis chewing the scenery.

No Country for Old Men – Because Javier Bardem made a killer with a prince valliant haircut so bloody terrifying.

Margot at the Wedding – Because I’m a huge sucker for Noah Baumbach films and for Nicole Kidman’s incredibly underrated portrayal of borderline personality disorder mixed with narcissistic personality disorder.

Lake of Fire – Because in a decade when Michael Moore gave documentaries about political hot button issues a bad name, Tony Kaye is able to show the incredible complication involved in the issue of abortion in America from all sides of the issue without judging or pushing an agenda.

Jonestown: Life and Death of the Peoples Temple – Because of how incredibly chilling and real it was able to make a tragedy that had always seemed so abstract.

Man Push Cart – Because it shows quite well how the American dream is a fucking lie no matter how kind and hard working you are.

The Squid and the Whale – Again, because I love Noah Baumbach and it struck a real chord as someone whose parents split during my childhood and for the crack in Jeff Daniels’ voice when he says “It’s torture Joan. It’s fucking torture.”

Michael Clayton – Because it’s the best corporate crime drama I’ve ever seen and it definitively shows that George Clooney is by far the greatest leading man of the decade.

The Proposition – Because I love dark anti-westerns and for Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ amazing soundtrack.

Mutual Appreciation – Because I was a white, middle class 25 year old college graduate hipster living in a major American city when it was released and I feel like it encased a very close approximation of my own cultural milleu in amber for posterity.

The Descent – Because, in spite of it’s rather slow first 1/2 hour, it develops the most incredible tension and somehow keeps it going for the next hour giving the viewer not a moment to catch their breath.

Shaun of the Dead – Because nobody could ever make a horror/romantic comedy work so well.

Mysterious Skin – Because nobody thought Gregg Araki had it in him, it introduced the world (well, the few that saw the movie at least) to the new indie leading man of the next 10 years and dared to examine the complicated emotions that may occasionally be involved in child sexual abuse – something that is usually treated as such a black and white subject.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Because it’s the most creative love story of the decade and Charlie Kaufman is a genius.

Time of the Wolf – Because I love how Michael Hanneke showed what a collapse of 1st world society would most likely look like.

Lost in Translation – Because it’s a beautiful story of a very very complicated type of May-October romance that isn’t at all creepy and has the soundtrack of the decade.

Inglorious Basterds – Because of two scenes: the French farmhouse and the basement bar.

Spirited Away – Because it’s like an animated Disney film without everything that makes Disney so cruddy to people like me.

May – Because it’s by far the funniest dark comedy of the decade.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Because this trilogy is almost perfect and never fails to take my breath away.

28 Days Later – Because I love depictions of the zombie apocalypse and it’s just a thrilling and very well told (and well acted) story.

Tape – Because it demonstrates that sort of small, intense, dialogue driven actor centered films that Soderbergh is still capable of making (and are capable of being made on the cheap due to the evolution of digital video) and because Robert Sean Leonard is an underused film actor these days.

Mulholland Dr. – Because when David Lynch is able to make a well focused and tightly-storied film, keeping his most confusing idiosyncrasies in check, he’s one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

Ok…and now for my top 5 of the decade…two of which I guarantee you will never see on anybody else’s top 5 list!

5) The Others – I just love Nicole Kidman. There, I said it. It’s a crime that she hasn’t won an Oscar yet. And this film, a twist on the ghost story that, IMO, puts The Sixth Sense to shame in that category, is just so fucking terrifying at points and gorgeous in it’s tone. It’s use of darkness and it’s ability to demonstrate that it’s atmosphere and the unknown and un-shown that can create the biggest scares thing are second to none. It’s by far my favorite horror film of all time.

4) The Wind that Shakes the Barley – This film really flew under my radar in 2006 for some reason and I was in awe when I finally caught it on DVD. If nothing else, this film is incredible for the power of the scene in which Cillian Murphy’s IRA leader must execute a poor boy who, because of his fear, gave up an IRA safehouse to the British. It’s a film that, like Zodiac, has an unusually long running time but not a moment is wasted.

3) The Believer – This film introduced us to Ryan Gosling – like Jospeh Gordon Levitt, an actor who is destined to be a great leading man of his generation (though Gosling hasn’t gotten as good a role as this one since.) The story of the boy raised in an orthodox Rabinnical school and who later becomes a neo-Nazi, struggling with the fact that his great faith and love for the religion continues but is at great odds with his shame at what he sees is the weakness of the Jews. It’s the complicated story of anti-semitism and is everything that a preachy and ham-fisted film like American History X is not.

2) Synecdoche, New York – “I’ve watched you forever, Caden, but you’ve never really looked at anyone other than yourself. So watch me. Watch my heart break. Watch me jump. Watch me learn that after death there’s nothing. There’s no more watching. There’s no more following. No love. Say goodbye to Hazel for me. And say it to yourself, too. None of us has much time.”

1) Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – It’s hard to separate this from the other two films and I’d love to just nominate the trilogy as the best of the decade but that’s not how this list works, so I’ll just choose the best of the three. This is the definition of epic. Everything is put together amazingly. I can watch the 3.5 hour extended edition and want it to last longer. I mean what can you say about this movie that hasn’t already been said. It’s way more than the Star Wars of it’s generation. The Lord of the Rings films are nothing more than the greatest Hollywood blockbusters ever made.

Honorable mentions: Casino Royale, Pan’s Labrynth, This is England, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Street Fight, Match Point, Grizzly Man, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Before Sunset, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Ocean’s 11, The Piano Teacher

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7 Comments on “Jeff’s best films of the decade”

  1. menckenwasright Says:

    Shoot, I forgot about American Splendor!

  2. menckenwasright Says:

    Also, thanks to Nick Bentley for the heads up – Nicole Kidman did win an Oscar in 03 for The Hours.

  3. John Says:

    You should change the paragraph at the top that misspells “Shaun” of Shaun of the Dead.

    Though you get it right in the actual list. Consistency!

  4. John Says:

    Also, I’m stunned that, of the 3 LotR movies, you picked Return of the King as not only the best, but your best of the decade. I loved the movie, but I thought The Two Towers was the best of the trilogy.

  5. Maura Says:

    I completely agree about MARGOT AT THE WEDDING. I’m always banging on about how the best television can be better than the best films because the sheer amount of time allows for character development, etc. And I don’t understand how the script and kidman’s performance manage to put across such a specific kind of malevolent crazy right out of the gate – but they pulled it off!

  6. mark Says:

    you have some pretty out-there choices. but ‘old joy’ and ‘wendy and lucy’ definitely get my vote. kelly reinhart is just excellent.

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