Yeah, yeah, I know: technically 2009 is not the last year of the first decade of the 21st century, 2010 is. That is a battle I am tired of fighting. After struggling against the insane stupidity of a world ready to say goodbye to the last millennium after only 999 years had passed instead of the full complement of 1,000 required to move into a new millennium, I’m giving up. The 21st century began in 2000 and irony means the same thing as coincidence. There, now I’m a full-blooded moron along with the rest of America. And so with one year left in this decade, I hereby present my choices for what are the nine best movies made so far this decade.
There Will Be Blood
There Will Be Blood is the only movie produced this decade in America that can rightly be called an unquestioned masterpiece. TWWB features a truly astounding performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, incredible cinematography, the most effective score since Schindler’s List, and a great big important point to make about the adulterous relationship between capitalism and religion. Apparently, that message hit a bit too close to home to many conservatives who led the charge in criticizing the movie. Read my full review here.
The greatest monster movie ever made. After watching The Host a second time I am no longer hesitant to suggest it should supplant the original King Kong as the ultimate monster flick, mainly because it is so much more than just a movie about a strange creature terrorizing a city. Its plot turns are startling and the way it winds up being a political statement is nothing less than extraordinary. Read my full review here.
Atonement probably appeals to me because I am a writer. Atonement is the most self-conciously literary movie of the decade, from its score featuring a typewriter as an instrument (the second best movie score of the decade), to its big surprise, which I dare not give away. The acting is uniformly brilliant (except for the girl who plays Briony in the middle section) and the direction is superb. Atonement would have easily been the best English-language movie of the year in any other year this decade. It was just unfortunate to appear in the one year this decade that could stand proudly beside any other year in movie history.
The Simpsons Movie
Only a handful of comedies made this decade had left me laughing from beginning to end (Bubble Boy, Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre), and sitting atop them all is the long awaited big screen edition of The Simpsons. The Simpsons Movie is without question the most underrated film this decade, shaming the movie that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film that year, Ratatouille. Not only does The Simpsons Movie provide a steady stream of laughs, it also makes biting satiric points about everything from Bush’s abuse of his illegal wiretapping program to the cult of celebrity in Republican politics to the evils of cartoon corporate spokesman. In short, The Simpsons Movie is the best comedy of the decade in addition to being the best animated film of a decade that is, admittedly, the Golden Age of animated movies. Read my full review here.
Comparing the original Infernal Affairs to its remake The Departed is like comparing Liberace performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to Michael Bolton recording a Jonas Brothers song. What Martin Scorsese got wrong at every turn was realized perfectly in what is, by far, the best action flick of the decade. Asian cinema eclipsed Hollywood as the center of getting movies right this decade and the fact that even the once-great Scorsese was given a lesson in filmmaking points to that more than anything.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The fourth movie on my list from 2007, making that one year account for almost half of this entire list and nearly every English-language film. Yeah it’s been that kind of decade for Hollywood. This is the big one that got away, the best western since Butch Cassidy and a sharp and unflinching analysis of the impact upon American society that our love-hate relationship with celebrities has. This movie also features the best ensemble cast of the year and I still say Casey Affleck was robbed. I mean Javier Bardem was menacing in No Country for Old Men, but that was all he was. And Brad Pitt was born to play this Jesse James. Read my full review.
A Tale of Two Sisters
Asian ghost stories stole the show when it comes to horror in this decade. By contrast, what passes for Hollywood horror has been a sick practical joke perpetrated by people who should never be allowed near a camera again. There were a lot of great Asian ghost stories, but no onryo (those girls with the long black wet hair) is creepier and no twist ending harder to see coming than A Tale of Two Sisters. Read my review here.
I have discovered that you either love Donnie Darko or hate it. I think it was the first great movie of the decade. I am especially enamored of the way the non-directors cut utilizes songs so perfectly to underline the plot and even specific scenes. If only Nora Ephron could learn how to do this her music videos masquerading as movies they might not be so vomitous. There are layers to Donnie Darko that must be contemplated afterwards that give serious lie to suggestions that it is not original. The movie is basically a tragedy and only when you realize the consequences of Donnie’s predicament does the full dimension of that tragedy become apparent. Besides how can you not love a movie in which a six foot tall rabbit is the messenger for the end of the world.
Memories of Murder
Forget Silence of the Lambs, Memories of Murder is the best serial killer ever made. If only Hollywood could make a movie like this without it being a remake. Ah well, one can dream, can’t one? With two movies on my list, obviously Joon-ho Bong is my pick for the Director of the Decade. This movie also features my favorite actor of the decade, Kang-ho Song. The thing I love most about Memories of Murder is that it’s not about the killer; in fact, you never even find out for sure who the killer is. Just as The Host is a monster movie that’s not really about the monster, Memories of Murder is a serial killer movie that’s not really about the serial killer. Read my full review here.
Since this decade has for the most part truly sucked, it is entirely likely that no movie will be released in 2009 that can make it to number ten. And so there are the top contenders for my number ten spot:
Joint Security Area
Syriana Read my full review here.
Oldboy (Please, God, please strike those who want to do a remake with Will Smith as Oldboy unable to lift their hands until they give up on this tragedy in the making!) Read my full review here.
Gone Baby GoneRead my full review here, but beware that it is really a critical analysis of the Kantian perspective on the ending of the film and contains complete spoilage of the ending.
Oh, and by the way, the decade won’t really end until December 31, 2010. Nyeah-nyeah-nyeah!