Monday, March 22, 2010

Top 100 Films Of The Decade: 40-31

40. About A Boy
(2002) Chris and Paul Weitz - UK

When this one came out, like many people I know, I thought "great, another lame ass romantic comedy with Hugh Grant" and decided to dismiss it as something I had no interest in seeing. A few months later though, I found myself on a transatlantic flight, it was the movie option, so I figured what the hell.... I have nothing better to do for the next 8 hours. And I was shocked out how much I liked it. Hugh Grant was much better in the film than he's been in most everything else I've seen him in, Toni Collette is always a welcome presence, and the film is quite entertaining. If you dislike Hugh Grant (and I know many who do), don't let that dissuade you.

39. Shaun Of The Dead
(2004) Edgar Wright - UK

In the realm of zombie movies, this decade brought two new developments, one of which was the intentionally funny zombie comedy film (or at least bringing that subgenre to the forefront... I'm not an expert on all the straight-to-video B-movies). And this one is still the funniest. Mixing deadpan British humor with the old school zombies made for a great mix, with these two dolts who don't even seem to notice that the people around them are turning into the flesh eating undead ("Oh my god, she's so.... drunk!"). Great fun!

38. The Devil Came On Horseback
(2007) Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg - USA

While I think most people are aware of the genocide taking place in Darfur, I think this documentary does an excellent job of explaining its roots and what's really happening over there. The film doesn't spare you images that will shock and appall you, but there's no way to sit through this one unaffected. Essential viewing for those who care about what's going on in the world around you.

37. Mister Lonely
(2008) Harmony Korine - USA

This story about celebrity impersonators is likely to inspire as much loathing in some and admiration by others. I'm not typically a fan of Korine's work, but found myself fascinated by the characters and what it says about celebrity obsession. Between the main story of the impersonators and the side story involving Werner Herzog as a missionary priest and a group of nuns who discover that miracles can happen in the strangest of ways, you'll either buy into the absurdity or dismiss it, but it's one that certainly seems to inspire strong feelings one way or another.

(2004) Mike Nichols - UK

Sexual politics have rarely been depicted so brutally on screen. Two couples, meet, fall in love, cheat and spend much of the movie tearing each other to shreds with barbs so foul they'd make a sailor blush. It may have been jarring for many to see two of America's sweethearts (Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman) so foul mouthed and cruel, yet I admired the risk. And since I think it's Roberts' finest work to date, I wish she'd take more risks like this one.

(2004) Nicole Kassell - USA

It's not easy to humanize a monster, but I think Kassell did a fine job here depicting the life of a pedophile following his release from prison. The film doesn't excuse his past deeds or make you feel sorry for him. It depicts a man who wants to change and fights very hard to do so, but is persistently beaten down from being able to get on with his life. We often say that if you do the crime, you should pay the time, but at what point do you stop paying? I don't think there is anyone on Earth more demonized than someone who molests a child, and justifiably so. And while it's absolutely a concern to make sure a pedophile doesn't strike again, the film made me put knee-jerk emotional responses aside for a moment and try to think a little more rational way to handling the situation.

(2003) Christopher Guest - USA

With his earlier films, Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show, Guest's previous mockumentaries lampoon their subjects in a fairly mean spirited manner. Not that I'm complaining about that - they make me laugh my ass off. But I think what distinguishes A Mighty Wind from the others is that it has more of a sweetly nostalgic approach in mind. This one follows a group of folk musicians being reunited for a benefit concert following the death of the man who long ago discovered and signed all of these groups. While it gently pokes fun, it also has a kinder tone to the jokes. And Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy getting to perform "A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow" at the Oscars was one of my favorite moments of this decade's ceremonies.

(2007) John Carney - Ireland

Speaking of great musical performances at the Oscars, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are outstanding in this small film about two musicians who meet and feel a connection that isn't meant to be. But the music they play throughout the film suggests what could have been. A little film that left a big impression and one of the best soundtracks of the decade. The win for "Falling Slowly" is among my favorites.

32. (tie)
Infernal Affairs (2004) Wai-keung Lau and Alan Mak - Hong Kong
The Departed (2006) Martin Scorsese - USA
It's rare, but every so often a remake works. And in this case, I like both the original and Scorsese's remake on about equal footing, so I felt it appropriate to lump them together for the purposes of this list. I'll credit the original with the story and coming up with a thrilling tale about the police and the mafia, their informants and rampant double crossings. But I have to give Scorsese some credit as well, even for as simple a task as "not screwing it up." (while that hardly seems a reason for praise, it's just so incredibly rare for the remake to get it right). But, I also like the way he incorporated in and made it feel like an authentically Bostonian tale. I can't honestly say that I have a preference between the two films.

31. Adaptation
(2002) Spike Jonze - USA
When tasked with adapting The Orchid Thief into a screenplay, Charlie Kaufmann (one of the most interesting screenwriters going) was stuck. His solution? Turn the film into a story about the impossible task of adapting this novel about a lunatic (brilliantly played by Chris Cooper) who poaches orchids from the Everglades. And in doing so, he crafted yet another brilliant tale that ends in him playing fast and loose with the story and inventing a completely different story that ends up being pretty much everything he didn't want the film to be. But thank god for it... there's such a perverse joy in watching Meryl Streep (playing the book's author) transforming from a straight laced and dignified Manhattanite into a drug sniffing criminal, in what would easily go down as my favorite comedic performance she's ever done.

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