(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