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25. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (Michel Gondry, 2004)
There are moments of true genius in this twisted romance that suggests you can't kill love, even if you erase it from memory. I saw this film twice when it played in theaters, and those are the only two times I've been able to watch it -- it has proven to be too emotional, too painful an experience for many reasons, but no less wonderful.
24. "The Incredibles" (Brad Bird, 2004)
An animated film ostensibly made for children dares to suggest that not all kids are special little snowflakes? And Disney released it? That's just one reason to love what is almost certainly the best superhero movie ever, not to mention the best James Bond movie ever. (Hey, it features a jazzy, horn-laden score, a villain who lives in a volcano, and tons of gadgets. If this isn't a James Bond movie, then my name ain't Nathan Arizona.)
23. "Donnie Darko" (Richard Kelly, 2001)
22. "In Bruges" (Martin McDonagh, 2008)
21. "Catch Me If You Can" (Steven Spielberg, 2002)
This is Spielberg's most entertaining effort from a decade in which most of his films were serious and/or grim (even his "light comedy" invoked the spectre of 9/11). One has to wonder how much credit he can actually take; how hard is it to make a movie when you've got a great script (courtesy of Jeff Nathanson) performed by Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Amy Adams and Martin Sheen? My sister likes to call this "as close to a perfect movie as I've seen," and though I have issues with the rather anti-climactic ending, I share her enthusiasm.
20. "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" (Quentin Tarantino, 2004)
19. "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (Joel Coen, 2000)
18. "The Departed" (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
17. "Ocean's Eleven" (Steven Soderbergh, 2001)
Why? The dialogue:
• "I owe you from the thing with the guy in the place." / "It was our pleasure." / "I had never been to Belize!"
• "Off the top of my head, I'd say you're looking at a Boeski, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethros and a Leon Spinks, not to mention the biggest Ella Fitzgerald ... ever."
• "They might as well call it 'whitejack'!"
• "He'll kill ya, then he'll go to work on ya."
• "You have lovely hands. Do you moisturize?"
• "Check it out ... all reds!"
• "You could ask him." / "Hey, I could ask him."
• "Ted Nugent called, he wants his shirt back."
16. "The Fountain" (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)
A misunderstood, mini-masterpiece that stretches across three timelines and owes more than a little debt to "2001: A Space Odyssey." The closing moments can best be described as orgasmic, as death, birth and rebirth collide in reality, fiction, and dream. Originally conceived as a big-budget tentpole starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, "The Fountain" was scaled back by the studio, but Aronofsky's imagination was not; he even achieved the film's stunning visuals on a shoestring without the benefit of CGI. Clint Mansell's hypnotic score is as vital to the movie's success as anything else.
15. "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" (Peter Weir, 2003)
Released in the same season as the final chapter of the "Lord of the Rings" saga (and the same year as the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" flick), "Master and Commander" seems to have fallen off the map. Such a shame, for such a meticulously detailed, beautifully constructed sea adventure. It doesn't have Johnny Depp mugging for the camera, but it does have another of Russell Crowe's great performances, particularly in his stirring speech to the young crew near the end: "England is under threat of invasion, and though we be on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship is England."
14. "The Aviator" (Martin Scorsese, 2004)
13. "Revolutionary Road" (Sam Mendes, 2008)
12. "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (Peter Jackson, 2002)
With the constant barrage of CGI, we are rarely honestly amazed by something on screen -- Gollum was truly amazing. So are the Ents, marching on Isengard. And so, for that matter, is the rest of the second part of the "Rings" trilogy, which introduces us to Rohan and its king, Theoden (Bernard Hill). The battles lack the emotional punches of those in the first and last installments, but "Two Towers" is the darkest, creepiest of the three, a harbinger of the horrors to come for Frodo and Sam, and Aragorn's band of warriors. The extended version, available on DVD, is a richer experience, but not essential.
11. "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (Judd Apatow, 2005)
Time for more hyperbole: Is this the funniest sex comedy of all time? I'm inclined to say yes, though I realize it has plenty of stiff competition (ho, ho). Apatow will have a tough time matching the laugh quotient of this, his directorial debut, and the film that began Steve Carell's run of multimedia omnipresence. Crude as the film can be, the concept could have lent itself to an even cruder film; casting Catherine Keener as a smart, warm counterpart for Carell was a smart move, and makes the film so much more than it would have been in less capable hands.
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Part 5 (10-2)
Part 6 (The Movie of the Decade)