Not Coming to a Theater Near You 2000–2009: The Decade in Review

Readers Poll

2000–2009: Readers Poll Participants: Adam, Bernie, Bill Curran, Eva, Natalia F., Garrison Grant, Jaime Grijalba, Ian, inessentials, Melanie Hawks, Gregory Hess, Bill Maisannes, Jeremiah McNeil, Michaël Parent, David Porter, Radoslav Sharapanov, Evan Spigelman, Miran Terzic, Nick Tinsley, Cory W. & anonymous contributors


Adam Mind Game is a joyous, stupid, rollicking film that beats itself on the chest until sparks fly.

Little Otik: Curious, unexpected sympathies crop up amongst the scrabble-rabble and aural frottage that makes Svankmajer so keenly-felt and gratifying.

Bill Curran The Best of Youth may stand out in a ten-year span for its radiance and centrifugal narrative force; La Commune, for being so damn alarming; The New World, for reimagining movie voluptuousness and melodrama in equal spades; A.I., for being A.I. But Yi Yi spilled out over decades, past and now-come, like jangled wind chimes. Few pieces of cinema grasp the spirit of making bad choices and living through them, and so many fewer dream of dressing it in so humbly beautiful of movies.

Eva 1. Talk to Her - I went to see this movie twice at the theater. It was just a fantastic movie, and one that highlights Almodovar’s evolving style. The scene where Benigno rapes the comatose Alicia is something I can still visualize, not because it was excessively violent or gory, but because it wasn’t. Without showing you exactly what happens, Almodovar lets you see it.

2. Amelie - I love the film’s style and tone. I love the color. I love the character’s absolute innocence. Watching this movie makes me feel good. That’s why it is one of my favorites.

3. Love, Actually - A lot of more serious-minded people hate this movie. But I love it because in a series of intermingled stories it shows you what love is and all its different incarnations. I really believe that.

Garrison Grant Also my honorable mention will go to not a film but a TV show (!): The Wire (2002–2008) (USA) One of the greatest artistic achievements of the decade in any medium.

Gregory Hess No Dogville? No In the Mood for Love? No Zodiac? I know. But the poll clearly asks for favorites, and I have obliged. Is there really such a difference? Between the best of the decade and our ’favorites’ of the decade? I don’t know. But I keep telling myself there is (hence: Signs.) Ask me again in 2020 and I will give you a very different list, probably with zero overlap. (On second thought- please don’t ask me.)

Inessentials Although less famous than its ubiquitous soundtrack, Moulin Rouge! is an audacious, ambitious, almost completely successful attempt to fuse classic Hollywood melodramas and musicals with an attitude befitting the new fin de siecle. Forget catchphrases like “postmodern” or complaints about smash-cuts, this is a filmmaker at the height of his powers finding new ways to tell old stories. This film still hasn’t garnered the respect it deserved.

Critical consensus seems to be consolidating around Paranoid Park and Gerry, but Elephant remains Gus Van Sant’s most powerful, affecting, and timely film. A perfect marriage of style and content.

Jeremiah McNeil Spirited Away: There is something to be said for sheer beauty, isn’t there? I can’t say precisely what Miyazaki is saying through all his vivid, witty symbols. A young girl finds herself within the world – literally among a milieu of nature spirits – and comes to redeem her craven, materialist parents. An entire life is summarized in Chihiro’s brief sojourn in the spirit realm, but, like life, the story of her journey is inscrutable. What can be said with certainty is that Spirited Away is a film of rare beauty and emotional depth, that is frightening and hilarious and lovely, often at the same time, and that may be the greatest animated film that has ever been made.

I’m Not There: Is this a life? Bob Dylan literally is the personae he created for himself in Todd Haynes’s masterpiece, and inhabits their worlds. But while the film is deliberately artificial, it is also profoundly truthful. I haven’t seen so compelling an argument regarding the malleability of identity in any film since Bergman’s Persona.

David Porter Collateral finds a slot here in place of another, probably better film I have completely forgotten about. It was on my lost first draft of this list, but it isn’t on this version, which has to be my final due to time constraints. Don’t misunderstand, though. I think Collateral is a smart, engaging thriller with an especially superb first act. It’s just that there was a movie I liked more.

Nick Tinsley Lost in Translation: Any doubt about Sofia Coppola’s talent behind the camera matching her father’s was squashed with her 1999 film The Virgin Suicides, but it’s with Coppola’s 2003 follow up Lost in Translation that she became the best filmmaker with the last name Coppola. Shot in and around Tokyo, Lost in Translation stars the 00s MVP Bill Murray as fading former action star Bob Harris, embarrassed to be in Tokyo filming a set of whisky commercials. Staying at the Park Hyatt, Bob strikes up a conversation with a young married girl, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson). Bob and Charlotte talk, he seems to like that she’s not starstruck and she’s smart, she seems to like that he’s self-effacing and can make her laugh. They wallow in their jet lag and sleep deprivation together, and bond over bad sushi and staying up late drinking sake watching La Dolce Vita with Japanese subtitles. Coppola sketches the two characters’ isolation in gorgeous scenes of sparse information. We see Charlotte wandering around Kyoto, popping her head into a temple, spotting a bride on her wedding day, tying a note to a tree, hopping stones across a pond. We see Bob evading the whisky company goons, taking a dip in the pool around a German aerobics class, trying get rid an unwanted prostitute sent to his room. As the friendship between Bob and Charlotte blossoms, the film deepens, and we realize this relationship is special, it’s beyond sex or romance, it’s full of real, actual feeling. It’s as touching, as delicate, and as beautiful a film, in every sense of the word, made this decade. For me, it doesn’t get any better.

George Washington/All The Real Girls: From the opening ten minutes of David Gordon Green’s first feature George Washington, you become aware that you’re in the presence of an artist, a great filmmaker. That the film holds that level of artistry through out is a testament to it’s genius. Riffing on Terrence Malick, Green finds his own style, poetic, yes, but also bizarre and affecting. Filled with slow motion, slow cutting and slow people saying things that slowly creep on you and make you laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously, Green immediately established himself as the most important filmmaker to arrive in the new decade. Green’s second film All The Real Girls transferred that style to a Southern love story, maintaining the strangeness, and all the more moving because of it. If Green’s subsequent films don’t live up the moving one-two punch of the first couple, they’ve at the very least continued to be surprising and find the odd corners of the human experience. Along with Wes Anderson, Green is the most distinctive and unique American filmmaker working today.



Return to site index →