Monday, March 22, 2010

Top 100 Films Of The Decade: 80-71

80. Katyn
(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.

78. Ratatouille
(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.

(2001) Kinji Fukasaku - Japan

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.

(2005) Ang Lee - USA

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.

(2008) Bryan Bertino - USA

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.

(2007) Jafar Panahi - Iran

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.

(2005) Terrence Malick - USA
I put this one off for a few years... I think it was because of Malick's dreadfully dull previous film, The Thin Red Line. It's a shame that I waited as long as I did to finally sit down and watch it, but I'm glad I did. It's a great retelling of the tale of John Smith and Pocahontas and hands down one of the most beautifully shot films of the decade. The pacing may be a bit slow, but it never bothered me and it's a shame that Q'orianka Kilcher hasn't graced the screen since. She was quite a find and carried the film on her shoulders admirably for her first film.

(2006) Pedro Almodóvar - Spain

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.

(2009) Quentin Tarantino - USA
Leave it to old Quentin to make WWII exciting to watch on screen again. Not to sound callous about such a hugely tragic event, but I don't think any historical event has generated more films than WWII and the Holocaust, and I'm progressively finding that it's getting more and more difficult to find something new to say about it. So, in that regard alone I found Tarantino's revisionist take on the war pretty refreshing. But even beyond that, Tarantino brings his usual verve to the film, making a nearly two and a half hour film go by in a flash, and I loved that he used he was able to bring a little more exposure to some consistently reliable foreign actors like Daniel Brühl while introducing me to a few like Christoph Waltz and Mélanie Laurent. And if I'm being totally honest, I kind of love the fact that he was able to lure a lot of people into the theater who wouldn't ordinarily give a subtitled film a chance.

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