The 00′s – Movies

2009 December 31

I’ve been thinking about making Best of Decade posts for a month or so now, debating how to go about it — whether to just make lists or rambling contemplations, and how to spread them out across a bunch of posts. I’ve settled on separate posts for separate segments of entertainment, consisting of personal anecdotes and feelings about my decade’s experience in each form of time-wasting. They’ll all be somewhat chronological, so you can see my evolution and growth or lack thereof. I originally wanted to get this done BEFORE 2010 started, but that’s not going to happen now because I procrastinated like with every single other thing in my life. Except for one decision this year, and that turned out pretty well. But this is not about my laziness and neurotic failings, this is about stuff you watch on a screen. Let’s get this kicked off.

The decade starts with Gladiator, which I believe — mistakenly or not — was my first R-rated theater experience. If there were any before it, they were obviously unmemorable, or just paled in comparison to the glory of a sword-and-sandals spectacle to a 14-year-old male. And this was in a massive theater that is actually now closed down, beaten into submission by a new stadium-style seating multiplex. This old theater was a multiplex as well, but it had one theater that was absolutely immense, unlike the new multiplex where every theater is the same mediocre size. I only delve into this at all because it was the place of the some of the bigger movie experiences of my life — with Gladiator possibly still being the biggest. It was just so unbelievably epic and badass. I wanted to be Russell Crowe, I wanted to be slashing and stabbing competitor after competitor, I wanted to fight fucking tigers.

Recently, the internet has tried to convince me that Gladiator is actually a terrible movie. Fuck the internet, or more specifically NeoGAF. I’ve heard ridiculous things like Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut is actually superior. Sorry, any film that stars Orlando Bloom cannot — by the laws of nature — be superior to one that stars Russell Crowe when they are in the same genre and directed by the same man. It’s science. Perhaps I haven’t matured enough to realize that Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus is overacted or that the plot is straight out of Spartacus, but perhaps I just don’t care and still totally enjoy the movie because it’s so goddamn entertaining. I’ll refrain from quoting the line.

Time to go to Wikipedia to remember what came out in 2001…

Oh right, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I’d say that was a huge theater experience as well. I admit I said at one point that it was better than Gladiator, but then upon watching it again at home, I rescinded this statement. It doesn’t make that first viewing any less amazing, as I was definitely blown away at the world that was created for that entire trilogy. But I enjoyed each successive installment less and less, culminating in the half-dozen endings for The Return of the King that had my entire group of friends complaining on the way home. That was brutal.

I’m gonna go ahead and mention Snatch in here right now. I’m not entirely sure when I saw it first — it came out in 2000 — but I’ve always absolutely loved it. Guy Ritchie gets a SHITLOAD of hate from critics and the internet alike, but I also loved Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and RocknRolla wasn’t too bad either. I should probably go ahead and see Sherlock Holmes then, huh? Snatch is my favorite of his so far, though — probably due to Brad Pitt’s character. It’s just pure fun from beginning to end. Whoever doesn’t like it is a joyless twat.

Then I guess I plodded along watching crappy movies for another year or so, until I rented The Bourne Identity. That totally rocked my world — Matt Damon as a super-trained killing machine? Woah, this was so much better than those stupid Bond movies, too! And evidently, EON Productions thought the same, since Casino Royale (and Quantum of Solace even moreso) took massive inspiration from the Bourne movies, and it was one of the best things to happen to movies this decade. So thank you, Bourne series — you not only gave us an awesome trilogy, you revitalized an entire other series. Really, the entire Bourne Trilogy deserves the bold + italic treatment. I can’t think of a more consistently great trilogy.

Any discussion of this decade wouldn’t be complete without the disappointment of the Matrix sequels. The Matrix Reloaded was supposed to be one of the big movies that I could look back on and remember how I experienced it in theaters, in that huge theater that’s now torn down, how it totally blew my mind. And you know what? It might have blown my mind a little bit. I did not hate Reloaded as much as many other people; I talked about that speech by the Architect at the end with my friends, trying to figure out what the hell was going on; I enjoyed the highway chase scene; and I had no complaint about Monica Bellucci having screentime. But so much was just a bit off, and it seemed just a bit too philosophical (well, maybe more than a bit). It was nicer not knowing what was truly going on behind the scenes. And it was nicer before the CG went totally overboard. Unfortunately, The Matrix Revolutions was such a total fucking disaster that I don’t even want to dedicate more than a sentence to it. It was so bad that it made Reloaded worse by association — although I feel the original Matrix is removed enough that it remains unscathed.

I guess 2003′s bright spot had to be Old School for me. Yes, out of that group of movies that includes Zoolander and Anchorman, I’m going with Old School. Zoolander is also pretty great, but I’m going on record and saying Anchorman is pretty awful. I don’t care if I like the line “It’s science” or “Milk was a bad choice” — the vast majority of the movie was fucking bad and I wanted to stab Will Ferrell repeatedly in the face. He’s good in supporting roles like, say, Old School or Zoolander! You’re not going to see Old School on any Best of Decade lists, and maybe I wouldn’t even enjoy it as much as I did 6 years ago, but fuck if my friends and I (and the entire theater) weren’t laughing at it more than any movie I could remember up until then. I don’t care if you call me a tasteless frat boy. The Royal Tenebaums sucks.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is my favorite movie of the decade, and I’ve only watched it three times. I watched it once in 2004, and it totally destroyed me. So much so that I didn’t watch it again until this year. That second viewing cemented its status, as it blew me away all over again — so much so that I watched it again a few months later. It’s fucking PERFECT. It’s brilliant, touching, depressing, imaginative, hilarious, original, beautiful, and heartbreaking. I don’t know what else you could want out of a film. Jim Carrey is at his painfully shy and neurotic best as Joel (hey, that’s my name!), while Kate Winslet plays a cute, quirky but also realistically crazy girl that provides him with some much-needed excitement. They have chemistry, but they’re not perfect. It eventually falls apart — like 99% percent of relationships. You see all this through a fragmented and out-of-order journey through Joel’s brain. Never have I seen an entire relationship summarized in a two-hour movie so perfectly before. I can’t even bring myself to write anymore, as it will just inspire me to watch it again. I just might. Charlie Kaufman is a fucking genius when someone else is directing his scripts.

The next couple of years brought two of my favorite comedies of the decade, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Borat. Sure, the former gets a bit sappy at the end, but there are just too many amazing quotes packed into the first hour and a half. And Steve Carell was born to play that part. Borat was a totally different animal; I seriously couldn’t believe some of the stuff I was seeing or hearing, but it just about all worked. “Let’s go back to New York, there are no Jews there!” might have gotten the biggest laugh in my NY theater.

2007 had to be the best year I ever had in terms of theatrical movie watching. Children of Men — albeit technically a 2006 film — didn’t get a wide release until 2007 (when I saw it). That’s one movie I’m extremely glad I saw in theaters. The entire climatic scene running through the warzone at the end was incredible. And I’ve never heard a packed theater audience as quiet as when the fighting stopped due to the baby’s crying. Then there was There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men, the two movies that were pitted against each other in every internet argument and even in the Academy Awards. Both amazing movies from masterful directors, but I give the edge to the one starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Endings don’t make movies, but I left There Will Be Blood with my jaw dragging on the fucking ground.

Also, I feel like Gone Baby Gone was a underrated gem that year, and it seems almost totally forgotten now. Maybe people thought Ben Affleck couldn’t direct a decent film; I thought the same until I watched it. Then there was The Bourne Ultimatum and Hot Fuzz as well. The latter doesn’t get highlighted because the first half of the movie is a bit slow, and Shaun of the Dead is superior anyway. Absolutely love that movie.

We’re almost at the end, people! But not really, because I watched way too many good movies the past two years.

I really don’t think The Dark Knight is one of the best movies of this decade, but it gets highlighted because it was the American movie event of the decade — and it did live up the hype. It’s a very, very good movie, but just a bit bloated. The action scenes also could have been handled better. Nonetheless, Heath Ledger’s Joker will be talked about for decades and it did bring comic book movies to a new level. Oh yeah, it also made over $500 million in America and $1 billion total, breaking almost every record in sight. Christopher Nolan will have a blank check for the third installment, I’m sure.

While The Dark Knight got all the attention, In Bruges was quietly amazing. It’s both charming and vulgar, both hilarious and somber. It’s also brilliantly acted and brilliantly shot. A perfect dark comedy. Just go watch it. I swear, Colin Farrell is totally awesome in it. I’ll just slide Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang in here, as it’s another (not-quite-as) dark comedy. More of a buddy cop mystery comedy. I just didn’t know how to get it in here. Watch it. It has Robert Downey Jr. — I’m sure you love him.

Another movie better than The Dark Knight? Memento. Christopher Nolan’s first feature with a budget over $6,000, it’s a mindfuck of a film where the non-linear storytelling isn’t just masturbation. I can’t imagine the film any other way. It fucks with your mind like the mind of an amnesiac. And not any old type of amnesia, this is one where you can’t even remember 5 minutes ago. The twists come at you over and over, but they never feel contrived, and it all comes together so beautifully (or terribly) in the end. Possibly Inception will top it with regards to both mindfucking and quality — well, probably not, but we’ll see.

Martin Scorsese finally got his Oscar for The Departed, but he should have gotten it a few years before for The Aviator instead. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a great performance, as does Cate Blanchett — and Kate Beckinsale looks really gorgeous. It’s a triumph of spectacle filmmaking; it’s just a joy to watch.

I leave for last three movies from 2002 that I finally got around to watching this year: City of God, 28 Days Later, and 25th Hour. Not a bad threesome. City of God is easily the gangster movie of the decade, a kinetic, uncompromising portrait of the slums of Brazil. It’s such a powerful, unrelenting film. 28 Days Later is probably one of the most influential movies of the decade. The ingenious idea to transform zombies into fast moving, bloodthirsty savages by making it all due to a virus instead of some living dead bullshit has reverberated throughout popular culture. The remake of Dawn of the Dead featured fast-moving zombies, and the Left 4 Dead series has fast-moving “infected” — the term used in 28 Days Later. It helps that the movie is absolutely fantastic, even if the final act goes off the rails a bit. BUT, I feel like the third act is foreshadowed and relevant enough thematically that it ultimately works. It’s not like the other Danny Boyle-Alex Garland collaboration, Sunshine. Two-thirds of that movie could make this list, but holy shit what the fuck happened.

I only watched 25th Hour a couple of weeks ago due to seeing it pop up on so many of these very lists. I was not disappointed. Every character plays their role perfectly — except for Tony Siragusa — and the backdrop of 9/11 does provide some great perspective. There’s a reason why I think the movie is finally getting the recognition it deserves, and I think that looking Ground Zero right in the face might be it. It’s about a man’s last free day, but it’s also about New York City, and it paints a portrait that will be looked back on for a long time.

Meanwhile, this post will never be even looked on, at least not in its entirety.

Related posts:

  1. A Personal Note to the 00s
  2. I Watch Movies Sometimes
  3. My Top Movies of 2006