Top 20 flicks...the past decade
Something I did over the course of a few days for a movie mailing list:
Top Twenty "Island" picks...of the past ten years!
Rather than list all-time faves, I thought I'd post a list of films I love from the past decade (1996-). Many gems have been sprinkled throughout cinemas in the era of awful blockbusters and horrific calculated comedies.
In no particular order:
1. Rushmore (1998): The first Wes Anderson film to grab me by the throat. Anderson (and co-writer Owen Wilson) do wistful melancholia better than anyone. And Anderson coaxes amazing performances out of his actors. This was the film where Bill Murray's soul as an actor was first revealed, and he should have been nominated for an Academy Award as a result. Funny, touching and always interesting to watch, with typically brilliant use of music and an homage to the Graduate thrown in for good measure.
2. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001): The second Wes Anderson film to grab me by the throat. Gene Hackman pops up, as he does every now and then, and nearly steals the movie from a cast full of younger favorites. Deeper than Rushmore, and truly sad in places, but also terrifically funny. Anderson's films make me laugh harder in recollecting them than when I'm watching, which makes repeated vieweings that much more rewarding. "That's the last time you put a knife in me! Y'hear me?"
3. Jackie Brown (1997): Tarantino's "straightest" flick may be his best. And he coaxed career-defining performances from seventies vets Pam Grier and Robert Forster. Not to mention a beautifully understated performance from De Niro (Al Pacino...are you paying attention? "Understated!") and a typically brilliant turn from the baddest man in Hollywood, Samuel L. Jackson. Elmore Leonard has never looked better on screen.
4. Snatch (2000): You can dog Guy Ritchie for playing in Tarantino's backyard, but this movie holds its own with QT's best (aside from "Pulp Fiction," maybe). Ritchie doesn't waste much time with defining his characters, and I can understand some of the criticism of his work in that regard, but that misses the point. This film is like a giant comic book, full of quirky, entertaining characters, interesting plot twists, bold shots and dark humor. I love it.
5. L.A. Confidential (1997): It's always boggled my mind that Kim Basinger was the only actor in this film to win an Oscar, considering her performance was EASILY the least impressive (in fact, it just wasn't very good). Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey and Guy Pearce are all outstanding in this phenomenal interpretation of the great James Ellroy's novel. Period details are terrific, and the seediness of LA in the fifties is perfectly communicated. And, of course, it has a cracking story propelling everything along.
6. The Big Lebowski (1998): The Coens and Wes Anderson tower above most other modern filmmakers, and this story without a plot is one of the most entertaining flicks to emerge from the 90s. Watching Jeff Bridges trip through the movie in a clueless haze, it's easy to see why Lebowski has spawned a cult of fans. And it probably features John Goodman's best performance.
7. Fargo (1996): The Coen's masterpiece, where their offbeat humor, noir influences, and their penchant for black comedy come together and work perfectly. Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi and William H. Macy are a blast to watch throughout. My favorite scene is probably the one in which McDormand's pregnant cop has turned up to innocently question car dealer Macy, who promptly melts down and flees the scene, much to McDormand's confusion. McDormand earned her Oscar here.
8. Shaun of the Dead (2004): For my money, the greatest zombie movie of all time. Genuinely funny, genuinely creepy, and it never loses hardcore zombie fans by making undue fun of the genre.
9. Amelie (2001): I just realized that most of my time with foreign films is spent getting caught up on classics through DVD (especially Criterion flicks), and I haven't really seen that many great foreign films over the past ten years. This wistful little movie makes the list, with its utterly charming lead and its modern fairytale take on Paris...
10. The Iron Giant (1999): If only DC Comics understood Superman as well as Brad Bird. I just love this film. It's colorful, funny and touching, and beautifully animated. Setting a film in the fifties against a brilliant fall backdrop is usually going to grab my attention. If I were single, I think I'd be Harry Connick's character in this flick. (no, I wouldn't. I'd be like Brian Wilson without any money, lying in bed listening to music with the headphones, waiting for someone to deliver Chinese straight to the bedroom)
11. Magnolia (1999): PT Anderson falls just behind Wes Anderson and the Coens, but I think this film features one of the best ensemble performances I've ever seen. Julianne Moore is astonishing, as she often is. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is without doubt the greatest character actor of his generation, and John C. Reilly isn't far behind. William H. Macy is typically perfect as the aging quiz show kid, and Philp Baker Hall is every bit as good as the aging quiz show host. And Melinda Dillon pops up out of nowhere and shines. Shit, Tom Cruise doesn't even suck. The movie also features one of my favorite bits of film-making ever, in its montage introduction of the cast, to the tune of Aimee Mann's version of "One." And then there's the moment when the cast stops what they're doing to mouth the words of Mann's heartbreaking "Wise Up," something I NEVER would have believed would work, but does to devestating effect.
12. Far From Heaven (2002): Setting a film in the fifties against a brilliant fall backdrop is usually going to grab my attention. I think I mentioned that. Todd Haynes' letter-perfect tribute to the Douglas Sirk melodramas of the fifties is empowered by two terriric perfomances: those of Julianne Moore as the suburban housewife coming to grips with the realities of the world around her, and Dennis Haysbert, as the friend she can't really be friends with. Dennis Quaid is pretty solid, too, although Randy will always be the real actor in the family. The period details are beautiful, and the art direction, the dialogue and the music are all faithful to films of the era. But the story is extremely moving, and the end gets me every time.
13. Dig! (2003): I can't really explain why this music documentary worked so well for me, but I've probably watched it five times. I'm always gripped by the examination of creative lives ("Crumb" is one of my all-time favorite movies), and watching Anton Newcombe and his Brian Jonestown Massacre lurch through a career filled with near success and self-destructive behavior is fascinating to me. Plus, I just dig the music.
14. Brokeback Mountain (2005): One of the first movies in a long while that's lived up to the hype. Wonderful film, and, just as importantly, beautifully crafted. The performances are outstanding on all levels, and Heath Ledger certainly earned his shot at an Oscar. I think special mention should be made of Randy Quaid's performance. He's such an adept clown that it's easy to forget what a great actor he really is. He's light years better than his brother, in any event. The cinematography was beyond beautiful, and the soundtrack was perfect. A movie that reminded me why I love movies.
15. Sin City (2005): I don't have much to say, other than it was probably the most exhilarating moviegoing experience I've had in a decade. I don't even have any desire to critique it. It was just a kick in the ass with an iron boot. With tiny spikes on the toe.
16. The Incredibles (2004): Brad Bird renders the live action Fantastic Four film laughable and pointless before it even hit screens. Pixar can do no wrong, but this one was a comic book fan's delight from start to finish.
17. Lost in Translation (2003): Bill Murray's triumph, obviously, but it's a beautiful, sad little film that makes wonderful use of Tokyo as a backdrop. And what a soundtrack.
18. Saving Private Ryan (1998): Aside from the gawdawful bookends thrown in for some reason, I think this is an extremely powerful commentary on war as well as a gripping adventure tale. And I think it features Tom Hanks' finest performance (heads and tails above the laughable melodrama of "Philadelphia" and the emptyheaded "Forrest Gump").
19. The Thin Red Line (1999): Some of the negative reviews of this movie baffle me. I'm afraid no one has an attention span these days, because I found this to be an utterly beatiful rumination on the philosophical impact war has on individuals. My only quibble would be with the numerous star cameos (George Clooney is always the most riveting presence in a scene, so having him pop up for a few minutes is just distracting). Other than that, Terence Malick paints a typically gorgeous picture with a camera (thanks in no small part to cinematographer John Toll), and gets moving performances from Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Ben Chaplin and James Caviezel.
20. The Full Monty (1999): Rousing stuff. As entertaining a movie as I saw during the nineties. Brilliant cast, which helps a ton.
Honorary mention: Gosford Park (2001), Kung Fu Hustle (2004), Bottle Rocket (1996), American Splendor (2003), About a Boy (2002), X2 (2003), Ghost World (2001), Boogie Nights (1997), Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1999) Current Mood: drained