Monday, March 22, 2010

Top 100 Films Of The Decade: 70-61

70. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
(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.

69. Dogville
(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.

68. Memento
(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.

66. Juno
(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.

65. Tell No One
(2008) Guillaume Canet - France

A couple are attacked at their isolated vacation home, leaving him severely injured and her dead. Though he cleared his name in the matter, the police have their suspicions, especially when eight years later, two more bodies are discovered on the property. Meanwhile, he begins to receive e-mails from an unknown sender showing clips of what appears to be his wife... still alive. It's a pretty great thriller filled with twists and turns and it's one of those films that hooks you in pretty easily and never gets dull.

64. The White Ribbon
(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.
This one takes place in a small German village just before the first world war, and strange things are afoot. Misdeeds committed against neighbors and we don't know who and we don't know why. A lot of carrots get dangled in your face, but just far enough out of reach to not grasp them immediately. For my fellow Tampa residents, this one is playing over at the Tampa Theater as we speak, so if you want a break from the norm and want a film that you could sit down and discuss with an intelligent friend afterward, this should be a priority.

(2004) Chang-dong Lee - South Korea

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.

62. The Descent
(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.

61. Elegy
(2008) Isabel Coixet - USA/Spain

There's so much I love about this film. First off, to take a novel from an author (Phillip Roth) who is most often associated with misogyny and make it seem like a more balanced take takes a special gift, but she could never pull it off without coaxing some great performances out of her main characters. Under Coixet's direction, Penélope Cruz, Ben Kingsley, and Patricia Clarkson all gave their finest performances of the decade here in a tale about a womanizing college professor who goes after his young female students for a quick bang until he meets Consuela, a Cuban grad student who invokes feelings he never bothered to feel before. It's a very smart film about commitment and accepting it or running away from it.

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