Monday, April 19, 2010
So, I went and caught everything I could, and as it turns out, there's just not a whole lot of the films that are available. I did manage to catch 32 of the 63 films, so just over half, and I think I've finally exhausted every avenue and just have to resign myself to the fact that I caught everything I could get my hands on.
So, if I were to have been on the nomination committee, here is how I would have ranked at least those 32 films:
1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - Romania
2. Persepolis - France
3. XXY - Argentina
4. Secret Sunshine - South Korea
5. Takva: A Man's Fear of God - Turkey
6. Katyn - Poland
7. Eklavya: The Royal Guard - India
8. The Edge of Heaven - Germany
9. Shadows - Macedonia
10. Satanas - Colombia
11. The Unknown Woman - Italy
12. 12 - Russia
13. The Counterfeiters - Austria
14. The Trap - Serbia
15. Exiled - Hong Kong
16. Island Etude - Taiwan
17. Beaufort - Israel
18. Jar City - Iceland
19. Ben X - Belgium
20. Taxidermia - Hungary
21. Silent Light - Mexico
22. The Pope's Toilet - Uruguay
23. I Served The King of England - Czech Republic
24. The Year My Parents Went On Vacation - Brazil
25. The Silly Age - Cuba
26. Caramel - Lebanon
27. Love Sickness (aka Maldeamores) - Puerto Rico
28. You, The Living - Sweden
29. The Orphanage - Spain
30. Belle Toujours - Portugal
31. Kings - Ireland
32. Mongol - Kazakhstan
Monday, April 12, 2010
Get Him To The Greek (2010) - Nicholas Stoller
True Grit (2010) - Joel and Ethan Coen
Map Of The Sounds Of Tokyo (2010) - Isabel Coixet
I Love You Phillip Morris (2010) - John Requa & Glenn Ficarra
The Art of The Steal (2010) - Don Argott
Prodigal Sons (2010) - Kimberly Reed
Mother And Child (2010) - Rodrigo Garcia
Mugabe and The White African (2010) - Lucy Baily and Andrew Thompson
Micmacs (2010) - Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Joan Rivers: A Piece of work (2010) - Ricki Stern & Annie Sundberg
Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010) - Banksy
2:37 (2006) - Murali K. Tharulli
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010) - Edgar Wright
Restrepo (2010) - Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington
Head-On (2005) - Fatih Akin
Cairo Time (2010) - Ruba Nadda
Fox And His Friends (1975) - Rainer Werner Fassbender
The Expendables (2010) - Sylvester Stallone
Everyone Else (2010) - Maren Ade
Branded To Kill (1967) - Seijun Suzuki
Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966) - Mike Nichols
Pierrot le Fou (1965) - Jean-Luc Godard
Best Worst Movie (2010) - Michael Stephenson
Kick-Ass (2010) - Matthew Vaughn
Black Swan (2010) - Darren Aronofsky
Sons of Perdition (2010) - Tyler Meason and Jennilyn Merten
Toy Story 3 (2010) - Lee Unkrich
Waste Land (2010) - Lucy Walker
Over The Hill Band (2011) - Geoffrey Enthoven
Samson and Delilah (2010) - Warwick Thorton
127 Hours (2010) - Danny Boyle
Rabbit Hole - (2010) - John Cameron Mitchell
Marwencol (2010) - Jeff Malmberg
Monogamy (2011) - Dana Adam Shapiro
Double Take (2010) - Double Take
Due Date (2010) - Todd Phillips
Toy Story 2 (1999) - John Lasseter
Winter's Bone (2010) - Debra Granik
Splice (2010) - Vincenzo Natali
Agora (2010) - Alejandro Amenabar
Holy Rollers (2010) - Kevin Asch
Please Give (2010) - Nicole Holofcener
The Dinner Game (1998) - Francis Veber
Dark Days (2000) - Marc Singer
The Last House On The Left (1972) - Wes Craven
Doghouse (2009) - Jake West
Passing Strange (2009) - Spike Lee
Easy A (2010) - Will Gluck
The Night of the Hunter (1955) - Charles Laughton
The Secret of Kells (2010) - Tomm Moore
The Human Centipede (2010) - Tom Six
Never Let Me Go (2010) - Mark Romanek
Ajami (2010) - Scandar Copti & Yaron Shani
The Social Network (2010) - David Fincher
The Greatest (2010) - Shana Feste
The Killer Inside Me (2010) - Michael Winterbottom
Chungking Express (1994) - Wong Kar Wai
Days of Being Wild (1990) - Wong Kar Wai
Ashes of Time Redux (2008) - Wong Kar Wai
Ondine (2010) - Neil Jordan
Strangers On A Train (1951) - Alfred Hitchcock
The Town (2010) - Ben Affleck
Notorious (1946) - Alfred Hitchcock
North By Northwest (1959) - Alfred Hitchcock
The Iron Giant (1999) - Brad Bird
Vertigo (1958) - Alfred Hitchcock
Friday Night (2002) - Claire Denis
Solitary Man (2010) - Brian Koppelman
Chocolat (1988) - Claire Denis
Red Riding Trilogy: 1983 (2010) - Anand Tucker
Red Riding Trilogy: 1980 (2010) - James Marsh
Red Riding Trilogy: 1974 (2010) - Julian Jerrold
Survival of the Dead (2010) - George Romero
The Square (2010) - Nash Edgerton
Mosieur Verdoux (1947) - Charlie Chaplin
Le Corbeau (1943) - Henri-Georges Clouzot
Diabolique (1954) - Henri-Georges Clouzot
The Wages of Fear (1953) - Henri-Georges Clouzot
8: The Mormon Proposition (2010) - Reed Cowan
I Am Love (2010) - Luca Guadagnino
The Ghost Writer (2010) - Roman Polanski
Sunrise (1927) - F.W. Murnau
The Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellsburg and the Pentagon Papers (2010) - Judith Ehrlich & Rick Goldsmith
Nosferatu (1922) - F.W. Murnau
The Girl Who Played With Fire (2010) - Daniel Alfredson
The Kids Are All Right (2010) - Lisa Cholodenko
Man With A Movie Camera (1929) - Dziga Vertov
Green Zone (2010) - Paul Greengrass
The Runaways (2010) - Floria Sigismondi
Ballad of a Soldier (1959) - Grigori Chukhrai
Inception (2010) - Christopher Nolan
The River (1951) - Jean Renoir
Chloe (2010) - Atom Egoyan
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2010) - Niels Arden Oplev
Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) - Alain Resnais
Querelle (1982) - Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Bad Timing (1980) - Nicholas Roeg
Europa (1992) - Lars Von Trier)
Barton Fink (1991) - Joel & Ethan Coen
Mrs. Parker And The Vicious Circle (1994) Alan Rudolph
Mala Noche (1985) - Gus Van Sant
Swoon (1992) - Tom Kalin
The Maid (2009) - Sebastian Silva
Close-Up (1990) - Abbas Kiarostami
Babette's Feast (1987) - Gabriel Axel
Burma VJ (2009) - Anders Ostergaard
The Celebration (1998) - Thomas Vinterberg
Shutter Island (2010) - Martin Scorsese
Crimson Gold (2004) - Jafar Panahi
Hukkle (2003) - Gyorgy Palfi
Damnation (1988) Bela Tarr
Kontroll (2005) - Nimrod Antal
Primo Amore (2005) - Matteo Garrone
Howard's End (1992) - James Ivory (REVISIT)
In The Name Of The Father (1993) - Jim Sheridan (REVISIT)
California Dreamin' (Endless) (2009) - Cristian Nemescu
Orlando (1992) - Sally Potter (REVISIT)
Tetro (2009) - Francis Ford Coppola
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) - Terry Gilliam
The Horse Boy (2009) - Rupert & Kristin Isaacson
35 Shots of Rum (2009) - Claire Denis
Uncertainty (2009) - Scott McGehee
Shadows (2009) - Milcho Manchevski
Date Night (2010) - Shawn Levy
The Piano (1993) - Jane Campion (REVISIT)
Brothers (2005) - Susanna Bier
Brothers(2009) - Jim Sheridan
The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (2006) - Auraeus Solito
A Single Man (2009) - Tom Ford
Summer Hours (2009) - Oliver Assayas
The Secret of The Grain (2008) - Abdel Kechiche
Antibodies (2007) - Christian Alvart
Hunger (2008) - Steve McQueen
The Portrait of a Lady (1996) - Jane Campion
The Messenger (2009) - Oren Moverman
Crazy Heart (2009) - Scott Cooper
A Serious Man (2009) - Joel and Ethan Coen
Where The Wild Things Are (2009) - Spike Jonze
Noi The Albino (2003) - Dagur Kari
Cop Out (2010) - Kevin Smith
The Crazies (2010) - Breck Eisner
The Milk of Sorrow (2010) - Claudia Llosa
The Secret In Their Eyes (2010) - Juan Jose Campanella
Mother (2010) - Joon-ho Bong
Police, Adjective (2009) - Corneliu Porumboiu
Seraphine (2009) - Martin Provost
Broken Embraces (2009) - Pedro Almodovar
A Prophet (2010) - Jacques Audillard
The Book of Eli (2010) - Albert & Allen Hughes
Edge of Darkness (2010) - Jochen Richter
Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) - Steve Pink
Of Time And City (2009) - Terence Davies
Revanche (2009) - Gotz Spielmann
Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (2009) - John Krasinski
The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) - William A. Wellman
The White Ribbon (2009) - Michael Haneke
Secret Sunshine (2007) - Chang-dong Lee
Yojimbo (1961) - Akira Kurasowa
Taxidermia (2009) - Gyorgy Palfi
The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009) - Grant Heslov
Kwaidan (1964) - Masaki Kobayashi
Last Year At Marienbad (1961) - Alain Resnais
The Beaches of Agnes (2009) - Agnes Varda
The Stoning of Soraya M. (2009) - Cyrus Nowrasteh
Capitalism: A Love Story (2009) - Michael Moore
La Pointe Courte (1954) - Agnes Varda
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009) - Rebecca Miller
Vagabond (1985) - Agnes Varda
Ponyo (2009) - Hayao Miyazaki
The Gleaners and I (2000) - Agnes Varda
The House of Mirth (2000) - Terence Davies
Bronson (2009) - Nicholas Refn
The September Issue (2009) - R.J. Cutler
The Invention of Lying (2009) - Ricky Gervais
Coco Before Chanel (2009) - Anne Fontaine
Good Hair (2009) - Jeff Stilson
The Best of Youth (2003) - Marco Tullio Giordana
The New World (2005) - Terrence Malick
An Angel At My Table (1990) - Jane Campion
Sweetie (1989) - Jane Campion
Bright Star (2009) - Jane Campion
Whip It! (2009) - Drew Barrymore
My Winnipeg (2008) - Guy Maddin
The Weight of Water (2002) - Kathryn Bigelow
Everlasting Moments (2009) - Jan Troell
The Juniper Tree (1990) - Nietzchka Keene
Top Hat (1935) - Marck Sandrich
101 Reykjavik (2000) - Baltasar Kormakur
The Headless Woman (2009) - Lucretia Martel
Outrage (2009) - Kirby Dick
Moon (2009) - Duncan Jones
Departures (2009) - Yojiro Takita
You, The Living (2009) - Roy Andersson
Funny People (2009) - Judd Apatow
Lorna's Silence (2009) - Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Paranormal Activity (2009) - Oren Peli
Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2009) - Sacha Gervasi
Monday, March 22, 2010
Since I'm linking in friends and family from Facebook who might not be quite as familiar with my tastes in film, I figure I might try to give you a little idea of what to expect here. I've been a bit of a movie dork all of my life, and as a kid, would ride my bike down to the local movie theater at Seminole Mall and see pretty much everything that was playing (those of you who worked at the movie theaters in high school can probably attest to this!)
But with so much time spent watching movies in my teens, I just saw a lot of trends come and go, and every time an interesting film came along, the studios tripped all over themselves to remake that same movie over and over again to see if lightning struck twice (...or more often, three, four, or ten times). For example, remember all the "Tarantino-esque" movies that came along in the wake of Pulp Fiction? Or how about all of the teen horror flicks that came along in the wake of the first Scream revitalizing that genre?. I guess, one part of developing my tastes was born out of that, and I stopped going for the obvious cash-grabbing ploys. And sort of going hand-in-hand with that, I've stopped listening to a lot of the mainstream hype. It seems like each summer, one big special effects extravaganza comes along after the next, and roughly 80% of the time, the people I know who saw that weekend's "event" film would tell me how much it sucked later that night at the bar or at work on Monday. Mostly, it seems like the hype exists to get as many people into the theater opening weekend before word of mouth spreads. This isn't to say all of these films suck, but think about it... for every Dark Knight that comes along, there are a lot more Transformers 2.
While I've learned to avoid a lot of films, I've also learned to seek out the sorts of films that I never had access to growing up... foreign films, documentaries, micro-budget indies and such that simply weren't available at our little AMC or at Blockbuster. This isn't to say that any of those genres are necessarily better. I've seen a lot of terrible foreign films and documentaries too. And while there will be quite a strong number of foreign films on this list, you have to consider just how many different countries there are around the world putting out film, and the U.S. is merely one of them. But don't fret... American filmmaking is more than amply represented here.
So, the 100 films I picked here are all films that made me think, struck a personal connection, lingered in the brain, entertained me in a way that I found smart, felt innovative, or even appalled me to the core in some cases... but all of have managed to stick with me in one way or another. Where available, I've linked to trailers, so you can watch the trailer for most of these films by clicking on the film's title.
100. Fat Girl
(2001) Catherine Breillat - France
This one is one I went back and forth on including honestly. When I first saw it, I found it ballsy, unnerving, and completely unflinching in it's look at sexuality and it's willingness to go to places I never imagined. Yet, with subsequent films by Breillat, I'm starting to think of her as someone whose main purpose is crass shock value, and it has somewhat diminished my appreciation for this film to a certain extent. I know people who love this one to pieces, and I know others who find this film absolutely abhorrent. I understand both sides of the argument. But, I decided to include this one because I think to retroactively dismiss it would be to deny the impact I felt.
This one is about a couple of sisters vacationing with their family and discovering their sexuality as well. The elder sister is young, thin, and conventionally attractive. The younger sister is chubby and plain and doesn't attract the boys. But beyond their physical differences, the sisters also have very different views about romance and sex as well. The ending here is shockingly abrupt, graphic, and disturbing, and I think it's probably the reason most people either love it or hate it. At the time, I loved it for it's boldness. I'm not quite sure where I fall on it now.
99. Sangre de mi Sangre
(2008) Christopher Zalla - USA/Argentina
There've been a few films as of late that have delved into illegal immigration and the immigrant experience, some successful, others less so, but I this is the one that I found to be the most interesting of the bunch, and interestingly enough, one I caught entirely by accident.
This two young men sneaking into the country - one is meet up with the father he never knew when his mother dies, the other a criminal who is fleeing to escape some hoodlums who want him killed. The two become friendly, but their friendship is short lived as the criminal steals the other guy's backpack with everything he had and shows up on the father's doorstep assuming the other's identity. The real son is left to wander New York City alone with no resources. The film follows what becomes of these two boys and both halves of the story are equally compelling.
98. Best In Show
(2000) Christopher Guest - USA
One thing I've come to discover is that my taste in comedy doesn't seem to match up with the majority. There always seems to be one big breakout comedy that comes along each year that breaks box office records and people endlessly quote or become sort of cult classics. But I've watched them, and I simply don't understand. The Hangover, Wedding Crashers, Borat, Napoleon Dynamite... all these films seem to make people laugh, and well, I wish I was in on the joke. I just never found myself laughing or even amused. But Christopher Guest's mockumentaries... THESE make me laugh.
This one follows a bunch of pet-obsessed eccentrics who compete in the dog show circuit and it really sort of spoofs and mocks the whole culture of these little stage parent-like kooks that obsess about their dogs and these contests. And I crack up every time.
97. Werckmeister Harmonies
(2001) Béla Tarr - Hungary
Curiously intriguing would probably be the best way I could describe this one. It's one of those films that's rather ambiguous in nature, but manages to evoke a mood and a feeling like few others I've seen, and it's managed to linger ever. I recall watching this one, and experiencing such a feeling of dread, even though I had no idea what lied ahead or if I was even supposed to be feeling that way. There's just such an odd and ominous air about the film the builds and grows, and mostly through Tarr's use of music and uncomfortably long takes (I recall reading that there were only 33 takes or something like that in the entire two-and-a-half hours). If a largely dialogue-free, black-and-white Hungarian film sounds like it would be a chore to you, than it quite likely will be. But for the few who think that the above sounds interesting, I would encourage you to check it out. Although I couldn't find a trailer with English subtitles, I think this clip does a pretty good job of succinctly giving you a feel for the film.
Lynne Ramsay was one of my favorite directors to emerge at the turn of the decade, so it's been disappointing to me that she hasn't made another film since this one, though I recently read that she is teaming up with Tilda Swinton to adapt the novel We Need To Talk About Kevin into a film, which makes me very happy. I find this one a little more difficult to discuss regarding the whole plot, but I find this one fascinating mostly because of the character and the actress who plays her. Samantha Morton stars as the title character, and I believe her to be among the best actresses of her generation (she'll be in quite a few of these films, including another in this segment). I don't think many actresses could have played such a damaged character like Morvern quite so effectively, especially since much of the performance (and the film, by extension) is so internal, and I think that her performance fuses beautifully with Ramsay's style of filmmaking.
While Varda is probably best known for her films from the French new Wave, such as Cleo From 5 to 7, she's one of those directors whose documentary work I find infinitely more fascinating. In part because I find Varda herself so fascinating. One of the biggest lessons I learned in college was that a fascinating professor could make even the dullest of subjects interesting, and I think that sort of applies here as well. Inspired by a painting of a woman gleaning (or, scavenging) wheat, she set off to make a documentary about people who live off the land scavenging to survive, both in rural and in urban settings. But Varda is very much a part of this film, as she mingles with the subjects she speaks with and scavenges along side of them. And while in her 70's at the time the film was made, she's a complete free spirit and her childlike enthusiasm for what she's doing makes this such an enjoyable watch.
(2003) Sam Green & Bill Siegel - USA
(2002) Steven Spielberg - USA
(2000) Sofia Coppola - USA
Back when this came out, I saw the trailer, and I didn't recall thinking too much of it (I think it had somewhat of a teeny bopper chick-literature appeal), but I caught it later on DVD and was interested to find it had more depth than I imagined it to have. The story focuses more on the group of young boys in the film who now, 25 years later, are recalling the events that occurred one summer when the Lisbon sisters - the object of all the boys affections - offed themselves, and the memory that lingers for them all these years later. Coppola gives the film a very moody, mysterious aura and manages to imbue the whole film with a very distinct feeling of time and place that makes this film work so well. I was happy that my preconceived notions were wrong.
(2008) Joel and Ethan Coen - USA
In conversation, I've discovered that this falls into that "love it or hate it" category that so many Coen Brothers films seem to fall into. Quite obviously, I'm on the "loved it" side of that debate. I don't think Brad Pitt or Frances McDormand have ever been funnier or more endearing, and while it may be a screwball comedy that doesn't add up to much, it's one hell of an entertaining ride.
89. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
(2006) Cristi Puiu - Romania
This one's a bit more difficult to pigeonhole... a darkly comedic tragedy, perhaps? Anyway, this tale of a dying man being shuffled from hospital to hospital all over Bucharest is among the best of a great crop of films coming out of Romania these days.
For whatever reason, I have a strange affection for zombie films, and seeing this in a crowded theater certainly added to that experience (it doesn't fare quite as well at home for me). It provided me with one of the most flat out entertaining theater-going experiences of the past year. And although Woody Harrellson earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in The Messenger I actually prefer his performance in this one, as the wisecracking Tallahassee, who gave the movie some of it's best laughs, along with the surprise celebrity cameo (which I won't ruin for you).
Five different stories interweave in this film with one common bond: The Camorra, a Naples-based crime syndicate that controls the city and whose tentacles extend far beyond just the seedy criminal underworld. The stories are based on an exposé done by Roberto Saviano, who now lives under 24-hour government protection because of what he managed to expose about the Camorra's operations. If you're fond of films like The Godfather series or Scarface (which serves as the inspiration for the two young wanna-be gangsters at the center of one story), you may want to give this one a go.
The Magdalene Laundries in Ireland were a place where "wayward" girls were sent for punishment, forced to work mercilessly while enduring cruel abuse at the hands of the nuns that headed the laundries. This is the story of one group of girls sent to live there back in the 1960's, many of whom found themselves there for wrongs that would even be considered slight by 60's standards. I don't much care for the trailer (Miramax went through a period where they had to make all of their films look like "triumphs of the human spirit," and this is one example). It's a lot grittier than the trailer suggests.
As a devoted educator and teen basketball coach by day and a crack addict by night, Ryan Gosling deservingly garnered an Oscar nomination for his performance in this one. Matching him every step of the way was young Shareeka Epps, as a street smart young girl finding herself at a crossroads - she's clearly capable of so much more than what her surroundings offer her, yet in danger of becoming another statistic of those surroundings. An incredibly smart and insightful character study.
(2009) Andrzej Wajda - Poland
Andrzej Wajda’s epic tale surrounding the massacre of 20,000 Poles in the Katyn Forest was one of the nominations they got right in the 2007 foreign film race at the Oscars. While it seems to have come and gone on these shores during 2009 with little notice, it’s an incredible tale, looking at the everything that led to the massacre and what was left in its wake. Wajda makes some smart moves in letting the tale unfold and I found it to be one of the more interesting epics of the past few years by focusing less on the war itself and more on it’s aftermath.
79. Jesus' Son
(2000) Alison Maclean - USA
This is a strange little film, but one that managed to stick with me over the course of the decade. It's based on a compilation of short stories written by Denis Johnson that follows a character referred to only as Fuckhead (or "FH" for polite company) as he hits the ups and downs of heroin addiction and recovery. It has sort of a strange beatnik quality about the whole thing, and it's a bit rough around the edges. But somehow, it managed to get lodged in the brain and hasn't left since.
(2007) Brad Bird & Jan Pinkava - USA
While many folks I know love the crap out of the Pixar movies, I don't really have the same enthusiasm (I thought Wall-E and The Incredibles were also really good. Up and Finding Nemo, not so much). Even though it might just be the foodie in me saying this, I did really like this one a lot. The animation was perfect (not to mention how difficult it would be to make Paris look bad), and I just found myself wrapped up in this one just like I was a kid again.
This is probably better described as a guilty pleasure than a "great" film, but damn if it isn't a lot of fun. Set in the not-too-distant future, a class of Japanese students take a class trip where they discover that they've been selected for a special competition. One where they have three days to kill off the rest of their classmates until there is one student left standing.
I don't think I need to give you much of a synopsis with this one since it was a pretty big touchstone of pop culture, and I think it will always be looked upon as such. Although I may not hold it in quite the same esteem as many do, I still think it's a damn fine movie with great performances from Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michelle Williams (who'd have thunk the girl from "Dawson's Creek" would emerge as one of the most interesting actresses of the latter half of the decade?), beautiful cinematography, and a really solid story.
While this decade saw the birth of "torture porn" where anything and everything went, I much prefer a film like this, which is a lot more like a throwback to the horror films I grew up with. A pretty simple story really, but one executed quite well and with surprisingly good performances (and a pretty great one from Liv Tyler of all people... go figure!) I think as far as this genre is concerned, less is usually more.
Since women are forbidden from attending sporting events in Iran, a group of young girls who want to see the game dress up like boys and sneak in. While it's implied that many did get through, this one focuses on the girls who didn't, detained and held within a tiny area within the stadium. It's a small film that makes as big of a political statement as one could possibly hope to make under such a strict regime. Sadly, Jafar Panahi, who has been a pretty outspoken detractor of the Iranian government and their policies, was arrested along with his family and houseguests earlier this month amid a sweeping crackdown of the opposition, and few details have emerged since. I hope he is still alive and will someday be able to make some additional contributions to world cinema.
Almodóvar's films are always somewhat of an event for me, especially with his last five films. He's become a master at jumping from one genre to the next and even blending multiple genres into a great experience, and Volver is certainly no exception. There is a very fine line between saying too much or too little about this one, so I'll err on the side of vagueness, but it's a partly tragic/partly comic tale about two sisters who are revisited by their long dead mother who returns to fix the things she couldn't necessarily do the first time around.
(2005) Shane Black - USA
One of the decade's most overlooked comedies. This one tanked hard when it opened and it was in and out of theaters very quickly, so it never quite found an audience. A shame, because it's quite a bit funnier than what passes as comedy these days. Written and directed by the same guy who wrote Lethal Weapon, Black kind of toys with all of the cliches he created 20 years earlier. Robert Downey, Jr.'s bumbling idiot con man and Val Kilmer's wisecracking gay detective made for one of the best comedic teams this decade.
(2003) Lars Von Trier - Denmark
For the uninitiated, I would have to say that Von Trier's works are not the easiest to get into but they're certainly ones that you won't walk away from with a feeling of indifference. He's very much a provocateur in every sense and his films can be nihilistic (as an aside, if you've not seen The Onion spoofing his works, it's an absolute must see) but I find them pretty fascinating, at least in most cases. In Dogville, he assembles a stellar cast including Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Patricia Clarkson and this one plays unlike any other film I'd seen before. The best way to describe it is that it looks like watching the dress rehearsal to a stage production, with chalk outlines on the floor taking the place of structures. It's an absolutely uncompromising film, and while I think I think he's made his points a little more effectively in the past, his condemnation on xenophobia here is quite compelling.
(2001) Christopher Nolan - USA
Earlier this decade, I might've told you that this one would go down as one of the decade's classics. While I still think it's a well made and inventive thriller, it hasn't held up quite as well as I thought it might. But, I think that once you move past the timeplay gimmick, there is a pretty interesting revenge thriller underneath it all.
67. You Can Count On Me
(2000) Kenneth Lonergan - USA
At the outset, we learn that two siblings are orphaned at an early age, but we get to know them as adults. The brother, played by Mark Ruffalo in his breakthrough performance, comes home to stay with the sister, Laura Linney in the role that singlehandedly reversed my opinion of her as an actress. They're both screwups in their own ways... he's been in and out of trouble his whole life while she's a single mother who puts on the facade of having things figured out, but isn't any better. It's a fascinating take on sibling relationships that has some interesting insights.
(2007) Jason Reitman - USA
While I'm aware that this one elicited just as many groans from people over the too-snappy dialogue and it's annoying soundtrack (on that point, I'll agree), I still think this movie happens to be funny as hell and filled with a lot of great moments. Sure, it may have a "trying-too-hard" feel about it for the first 20 minutes or so, but I think once it finds its groove, it's pretty great and has just the right amount of heart.
(2008) Guillaume Canet - France
(2009) Michael Haneke - Germany
Along with Von Trier, who I discussed earlier, Haneke is another of modern cinema's great provocateurs, but I think his films manage to provoke in a different way. He's a little less "in your face" and takes a bit more of a cerebral approach. He seems to love nothing more than to toy with his audience and not give you the easy answers that you've come to expect from most films. Instead of hand delivering you quick resolutions, he's much more content to let you come up with those on your own and allow you to walk away interpreting the film in your own way and that might be entirely different from what the person next to you thought. And while that seems to be maddening to many, it's precisely what I love about Haneke.
Probably the most unconventional romantic relationship of the decade plays out here between a complete social misfit and a woman stricken with cerebral palsy. He's a complete mess, but takes a shine to her... maybe it's because she's a fellow outcast or his only option, but it seems horrifying at first and then in time becomes completely endearing. And mostly because of the high-wire act that Moon So-ri pulls off here. Until the fantasy sequences begin, you would have no idea that the actress in the role is not afflicted with the condition. She plays it so authentically it's almost scary.
(2006) Neil Marshall - UK
Horror is a genre I totally grew up on and love, but it just seems to be a genre that nowadays doesn't really get it right for me, outside of a few instances, and this would be one of those instances that did get it right. It's about a group of women who are adventure sport enthusiasts who decide to take a spelunking trip. And right off the bat, I should tell you that if you have even the slightest claustrophobia, it's only going to heighten the terror for you. They get caved in and are desperate to find a way out. Soon enough though, they realize that their fear isn't so much that they are trapped in, but what they are trapped in with.
(2008) Isabel Coixet - USA/Spain
(2009) Jean-Luc and Pierre Dardenne - Belgium
This is one of those films that I wish had actually been longer. Not because I thought it was missing anything, per se. It's just that I could have easily spent another hour with this story. It's about an Armenian immigrant who marries a junkie for Belgian citizenship, with everyone suspecting that he'll probably just overdose and the marriage will simply be a quick formality. But when Lorna begins to find herself caring enough to try and help her husband get off heroin, it throws the carefully laid plans, and Lorna's well-being, in jeopardy.
(2006) John Cameron Mitchell - USA
I wouldn't hesitate to call this the most sexually explicit film to get any sort of release this past decade, with pretty much everything you could imagine depicted on screen, I found this one took an interesting approach; it pretty much inundates you with sex right off the bat in a way to address the taboo and move past it so that it can address the entanglements of sex and relationships without it overwhelming the stories that unfold. May be a bit extreme for most tastes, but I found it to be a bittersweet look at sex, love, and relationships.
(2009) Paolo Sorrentino - Italy
It’s rare, but every so often, I’ll sit down and watch a movie and just know instantly that I’m in for a treat of a film. This is how I felt when I popped Il Divo in and those opening credits rolled with such energy to a kickass soundtrack, and I just knew I was going to adore the film. Toni Servillo is excellent as Giullio Andreotti and along with 2008’s Gomorrah (also starring Servillo), they make excellent companion pieces showing a darker side of Italy’s past and present.
(2008) Lucia Puenzo - Argentina
Alex was born as a hermaphrodite, and while her parents opted to raise her as a girl, they never surgically altered her, as they felt it would be better to let Alex make that decision when she gets old enough to make that decision. As a young teenager now, she is grappling with those decisions, while going through all of the identity crises and growing pains that most kids endure during that tumultuous time in their lives. I thought this was a pretty interesting, mature, and sincere story about a topic that is typically played for laughs and just one of many interesting films to come out of Argentina over the past decade.
While Haneke's films often provoke discussion, this one seems to have gone under the radar for the most part. Not sure whether it's just been underseen or not as well regarded, but I think his post-apocalyptic tale is an exceptional film that should be considered among his better works. Starring the always reliable Isabelle Huppert, this one focuses on a family thrust into survival mode after the world around them suddenly goes to hell.
I love a good smartass, and Enid and Rebecca (Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson) are two of the decade's best, whether ridiculing their oblivious classmates or the odd assortment of goofballs that they see at their local diner. It's smart, snarky and snarly, and I love the hell out of it.
It's kind of fitting that this semiautobiographical tale about the young protagonist's adventures on the road and the first love that ensues was the first film that I loved out of the decade. Not perfect, but I enjoyed the ride immensely and the entire ensemble is aces here, especially Frances McDormand as the neurotic mother. And man oh man, how I wish Kate Hudson would have followed up the promise of this role with something interesting instead of becoming the queen of dipshit romantic comedies.
(2004) Jean-Pierre Jeunet - France