Thursday, October 1, 2009

10 Years, 100 Movies: Part 1 (100-76)

Yes, I actually attempted to rank the top 100 movies of the decade. It's a little early, I guess, but it will probably take me until at least March 2010 to see all the "important" films of 2009, and would you be interested in reading this list then? I'm omitting films that come out between now and Dec. 31, but I'd want to let those films "breathe," as it were, before I attempted to place them on such a list anyway. (That being said, a few films from 2009 will appear here, and one of them will even crack the top ten.)

These are not what I think are the best films of the past ten years -- I haven't seen nearly enough films to proclaim such a thing. But neither are they necessarily my favorite, as no list of favorites would ever include something as grueling as, say, "Requiem for a Dream."

This list will be some kind of strange hybrid of quality and endearment. That will explain how something like "Shanghai Knights" can appear on the list, not to mention the film that clocks in at No. 100.

So let's get started. Here are the first 25, with commentary on selected titles. Enjoy.

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100. "The Phantom of the Opera" (Joel Schumacher, 2004)
I reserved the last spot on this list for a movie that I know doesn't belong on any best list. Schumacher's "Phantom" was almost universally loathed by critics, and he proves he knows almost nothing about directing a musical or the art of lip-synching, but if you love Andrew Lloyd Webber's songs like I do, then you'll ... accept this movie, which I have. Gerard Butler isn't anyone's ideal Phantom, but he does throw himself into the part; Emmy Rossum's porcelain beauty is the main reason to watch the film, which looks resplendent despite its obvious shortcomings. A guilty pleasure, if ever there was one.

99. "Fantasia/2000" (multiple directors, 2000)
98. "The Terminal" (Steven Spielberg, 2004)
97. "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (Alfonso Cuaron, 2004)

96. "You Can Count on Me" (Kenneth Lonergan, 2000)
A touching, real family chronicle starring Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo (his breakout performance) as siblings who find themselves living together on the precipice of middle-age. This film has been largely forgotten, and deserves a home in your Netflix queue.

95. "Bandits" (Barry Levinson, 2001)
I'm not gonna lie: Cate Blanchett's beauty has a lot to do with why I like this movie so much. But it's also a criminally underrated caper (yeah, that was a bad pun) with perfect performances from Blanchett and Billy Bob Thornton. We've never really met characters like the two they play, and the scenes where they and fellow ne'er-do-well Bruce Willis politely kidnap their "victims" are uniquely entertaining.

94. "Snatch" (Guy Ritchie, 2000)
93. "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (Guillermo Del Toro, 2008)
92. "Chicago" (Rob Marshall, 2002)
91. "Whale Rider" (Niki Caro, 2002)
90. "Milk" (Gus Van Sant, 2008)
89. "Love Actually" (Richard Curtis, 2003)

88. "Touching the Void" (Kevin Macdonald, 2003)
Part documentary, part re-enactment, "Touching the Void" tells the harrowing story of two men who attempt to climb all 21,000 feet of Siula Grande. Getting up the mountain is easy; coming down, however, turns into an absolutely grueling experience for both men. One of the pair has to make the wrenching decision to cut the other loose -- and both survive.

87. "Finding Neverland" (Marc Forster, 2004)
86. "Watchmen" (Zack Snyder, 2009)
85. "Lost in Translation" (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
84. "Capturing the Friedmans" (Andrew Jarecki, 2003)

83. "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001)
Mitchell plays the title role in this glam-rock musical about sexual identity that boasts infectious songs by Stephen Trask and a brutally funny script. Mitchell, who in drag looks shockingly similar to Rachel Griffiths, creates a character that feels authentic in a fantastic, over-the-top universe.

82. "Hannibal" (Ridley Scott, 2001)
Regarded as a morbid curiosity upon its release, "Hannibal" has aged very well. Scott takes Thomas Harris's simply ridiculous follow-up to "Silence of the Lambs" and runs with it, crafting a grim opera of gore that is sometimes funny, sometimes repulsive but never, ever boring. As a true sequel to "Lambs," it fails; but it succeeds as self-parody, a concession that the reprehensible villain has the audience's rooting interest.

81. "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" (Kevin Smith, 2008)
80. "Little Children" (Todd Field, 2006)
79. "Traffic" (Steven Soderbergh, 2000)
78. "Shaun of the Dead" (Edgar Wright, 2004)

77. "Dear Zachary: A Letter From a Father to a Son" (Kurt Kuenne, 2008)
Kuenne made this devastating documentary about the death of his best friend, who was destroyed by a mentally unstable girlfriend. It's constructed like a thriller, with Kuenne playing the part of detective and his friend's parents providing the emotional core; some found this manipulative, but the film's structure helps deliver a gut-punch of an ending that will stay with you. This film was partially funded by MSNBC, which runs it from time to time.

76. "The Darjeeling Limited" (Wes Anderson, 2007)
Yes, it's another voyage into Daddy Issues Land, but "Darjeeling" is Wes Anderson's most beautiful film, thanks to the Indian vistas and the ingenious set design (much of the film's action is shot on a real steam train). I'm pretty sure if you turn the color and the brightness all the way up on your HDTV, this film will burn your retinas with its multi-hued goodness.

• • •

Coming soon:
Part 2: 75-51
Part 3: 50-26
Part 4: 25-11
Part 5: 10-2
Part 6: The Movie of the Decade

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