DVD Times Best of the Decade: 2000s
The DVD Times reviewing team has put together a list of ten selections per person to mark the decade between 2000 and 2009. Short write-ups were then added to help explain why each reviewer chose that particular work. Most of the lists use traditional criteria, but Gary Couzens made things interesting by putting exclusively Australian movies on his and James Gray opted to focus on television. Of the other lists, there's a good amount of diversity yet also several shared choices. Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums received the most mentions, appearing on four lists, while a trio of films - Mulholland Dr., Amélie, and In the Mood for Love - made three lists each. Other pictures appearing on multiple lists include Almost Famous, Haute Tension, Memento, Memories of Murder, No Country for Old Men, and Volver. Feel free to add your own favourites in the comments section and we all look forward to covering another great decade of film here at DVD Times.
The Black Balloon (Elissa Down, 2008) -
Five out of ten AFI Best Film winners this decade were directed by women (and debut features at that), compared with three in the previous three decades. Having said that, some of those new female directors have spent some time following up thir auspicious first features, so let's hope it's not too long before we have a new film from Elissa Down, if this engaging and at times heartbreaking autobiographically-inspired story is anything to go by,
He Died With a Felafel in His Hand (Richard Lowenstein, 2000) -
Hell is other people in this sharply-written and stylishly directed black comedy. Proof that Lowenstein really ought to direct more features, as this is only his fourth since he started in 1985, and we're still waiting for his fifth. He's clearly too busy making promo videos.
Japanese Story (Sue Brooks, 2003) -
Another excellent debut feature. Toni Collette gives a great performance in this film which begins as a cross-cultural romance and then - via a sudden turn in the plot - becomes something else entirely.
Lantana (Ray Lawrence, 2001) -
Based on Andrew Bovell's play Speaking in Tongues (recently revived in London's West End), this intricate and thoroughly adult character drama/thriller was a triumph for Anthony LaPaglia amongst a very distinguished cast. This was Ray Lawrence's second feature, sixteen years after his first, the flawed but striking Bliss. Fortunately there were only five years before his next one, Jindabyne, which is almost as good.
Look Both Ways (Sarah Watt, 2005) -
Another good example of how dark the Australian sense of humour can be, in this AFI Best Film-winner. Cinematically inventive - with animated inserts in an otherwise live-action film - and funny when in lesser hands it could have been just morbid.
Looking for Alibrandi (Kate Woods, 2000) -
Based on Melina Marchetta's young-adult novel, and adapted by the author, this engaging teen film has a star-making performance from Pia Miranda. As with Japanese Story, an unexpected event takes the film in a different direction, a shift in tone that is managed very well. Unfortunately Kate Woods has only directed television since.
Mullet (David Caesar, 2001) -
David Caesar made two loud and brash movies either side of this one (Idiot Box and Dirty Deeds), but showed a gentler, quirkier side in this character comedy starring Ben Mendelsohn.
The Proposition (John Hillcoat, 2005) -
After the promise of Ghosts...of the Civil Dead and the misfire of To Have & To Hold, John Hillcoat delivered with his third feature, a striking and very violent Down Under western written by Nick Cave.
Somersault (Cate Shortland, 2004) -
Alphabetically the last of the AFI-honoured female debuts on this list, this character drama is a showcase for the acting talents of Abbie Cornish. She's one of the best young actors around at the moment, and can currently be seen in Jane Campion's Bright Star.
Ten Canoes (Rolf De Heer & Peter Djigirr, 2006) -
Best known in the UK for Bad Boy Bubby (though most of his output is unreleased here), Rolf De Heer seems honour-bound to make each film completely different from his last, and from anyone else's too. Co-directed with Peter Djigirr, this Aboriginal fable (in native languages apart from English narration) is charming, funny and utterly unpredictable.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -
An incredible collaboration between the weird and wonderful minds of Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry plus fantastic lead performances from Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet playing against 'type'. This was also the film that introduced to me to Gondry and Mark Ruffalo
2. In Search of a Midnight Kiss -
Along the same sort of 'chick flick' lines as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Annie Hall and (500) Days of Summer. A realistic, hopeful and honest portrayal of love and relationships
3. Volver -
I put off seeing this film for a while as lots of other films climbed up my 'to see' list but when I finally got round to seeing it I was blown away by Penelope Cruz, Pedro Almodovar and the overwhelming appeal of the film. I can't fault it
4. Lars and the Real Girl -
Ryan Gosling falls in love with a doll? Really? The story doesn't unfold as you would expect but this makes it all the more entertaining. Amazing performances from all involved
5. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang -
An incredible comeback for Shane Black, Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer that sounds like it shouldn't work but did. My film of the year
6. Amelie -
The first foreign film I fell in love with when doing my Film A Level. I will now watch anything directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet or starring Audrey Tautou (except The Da Vinci Code)
7. The Station Agent -
One of my favourite directorial debuts (followed up well with The Visitor). Even though the story is simple and not all that much actually happens, it is surprisingly engrossing and touching
8. Almost Famous -
Unlike many films where the soundtrack is just thrown together to sound cool, Cameron Crowe uses songs to enhance the mood and emotion of his films
9. Garden State -
A feel good movie for the iPod generation
10. Memento -
A mind-fuck that keeps you coming back for more
1. The Sopranos (1999-2007) -
It might be somewhat stereotypical, and every so often hit a rough patch, but David Chase's masterpiece remains compulsive, absorbing watching throughout nearly all its 86 episodes for, amongst many other things, one main reason: its central character. Although surrounded by a host of memorable supports, like the conflicted Christopher, the tragic Bobby and the in equal-parts terrifying and hilarious Paulie, it's the portrait of Tony, head of New Jersey's premier mafia family, that makes the series so special. A sociopath surrounded by a loving wife and children, a vicious killer prone to panic attacks, a strong man with a mummy complex, over the six seasons layer after layer of Tony's psyche is peeled back in a wholly convincing, nuanced portrayal as fully-rounded (no pun intended) and horribly fascinating as any found in literature or on the big screen. (It also helps that James Gandolfini gives the finest performance US television has ever seen.) What happens after the ending? Almost certainly Tony stops
2. Survivor (US) (2000-Present) -
Most reality TV is a load of rubbish, but Survivor is one of the very few shows which justifies the genre's existence. Accept the fact that "reality" is very much a misnomer, and that every twist, challenge and soundbite the contestants utter is under complete control of the puppet masters, and you get a show as full of drama and intrigue as most more traditionally scripted shows out there, with the added bonus of a usually far more exotic setting. It's ruined at least one life - the first winner, Richard Hatch, ended up going to jail for not declaring his winnings and remains bitter about his treatment on the show to this day - and inflicted Elisabeth Hasselbeck on the world, but it remains surprisingly fresh years after its format should have palled.
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-Present) -
Dearly Beloved cunt. "Is there any reason you couldn't decide this case in a fair and impartial manner?" The restaurant opening. Susie Greene. "Why don't you come up front?" "Fuck Huuuughhh!" Krazee Eyez's rap. Leon Black. "The Tivo guy is here." Those stares. "Judy!" Officer Krupke. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.
4. The Office (UK) (2001-3) -
It's hard to imagine Ricky Gervais's game-changing series only debuted just under nine years ago, so ubiquitous has both it and its star become this decade. Despite the opprobrium often slung his way, Gervais and co-writer Merchant are actually consummate craftsmen and comparisons to the equally meticulously-formed Fawlty Towers are for once entirely justified. The one difference is that while Fawlty the monster was ultimately unsympathetic, David Brent ended up being equal parts a grotesque and a pitiful creature, reduced in the final episodes of Series Two to an almost Malvolio-like figure of ridicule left pleading for the very thing that makes his life so desperate, his job. There isn't a dud episode, and the Christmas finale achieved a minor miracle in being a wholly satisfying conclusion, but the high point are the final two episodes of that second series, when Gervais and Merchant pulled out all the stops to produce the most agonising hour of comedy of the decade.
5. The Wire (2002-2008) -
Immaculately scripted and lovingly produced, with an attention to detail, pinsharp characterisation and an eye for telling visual metaphors, the only problem with The Wire is that it's been so hyped now it might actually put off some from watching it. Perhaps not as all-conquering as its most rabid fans will have you believe, but this often deeply depressing portrait of inner city life is, with The Sopranos, the pinnacle of what television drama has achieved so far.
6. Firefly (2002) -
Joss Whedon's greatest moment, with his strongest cast, was cut down before it had a chance to fully realise its potential. Wittily combining the genres of sci-fi and the Western (and thus finally fully realising Gene Roddenberry's "Wagon Train to the stars" premise) viewers fell in love with the ragtag band of antiheroes on the cargo ship Serenity, led by the charismatic Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), a captain as happy to push a foe into his ship's turbines as to save the day. Swiftly followed by a feature film Serenity which tried to squeeze far too much story into two hours, this is the great What Might Have Been of the genre. That said, seven years later, it might just be time to let it go...
7. Peep Show (2003-Present) -
It's showing signs of getting a bit long in the tooth now, but for the first four series Peep Show's portrait of the malaise affecting Generation Y was every bit as merciless as The Office. But, whereas Gervais's show magnified one individual's failings, Peep Show highlights an entire class, exposing both its failings and those of the society that has made it that way. Endlessly quotable, and blessed with two deceptively strong central performances, the only problem is, weirdly, the show keeps getting renewed - the last episode of season four, featuring Mark's disastrous wedding, would have made the perfect coda.
8. Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009) -
Vanquishing all memories of Lorne Green and Dirk Benedict, Ronald D Moore's reimagining did for sci-fi what The Sopranos and The Wire did for their respective genres. The former Star Trek producer broke free of the shackles that rigid franchise imposed and did everything he had always wanted to do on the Enterprise but been forbidden to even attempt. In creating a gripping overall arc, three-dimensional characters and a reflection of US society in the Bush years, he proved that science-fiction TV can be as intelligent, provocative and socially relevant as any more land-based series and raised the bar almost impossibly high for future shows.
9. Doctor Who (2005-Present) -
Came back. Did quite well. Everyone loved it. Fans moaned.
10. 30 Rock (2006-Present) -
Making for a happy, fictional companion piece to the equally satirical and sharp The Daily Show, Tina Fey's joyous comedy, set behind the scenes of a Saturday Night Live-like comedy, is both cuttingly cynical and the most blissfully silly show since Father Ted. Alec Baldwin sends himself up as the Republican head of corporate America as he tries to bend the liberal show to his company's wants and together with Tracy Jordan and Kenneth the Page Boy is one of the three funniest characters to come from the States in many a year.
1.) The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001) -
Contrary to sometimes popular opinion, Wes Anderson has indeed grown as a filmmaker this decade. But his gifts for illuminating the sadness of past failures and the hope that can follow, all through the prism of familial discord and laced with sharp, dry humor, have never been used to more satisfying effect than here in his third feature.
2.) In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000) -
Beyond the romantic longing, unconsummated feelings (if not necessarily love), and overt attention to the importance and constrictions of time, Wong's deconstruction of romance gives us some of the most beautiful images, including Maggie Cheung in a gorgeous floral dress, and sounds in all of cinema.
3.) Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002) -
Less bathed in melodrama than Almodóvar's other films this decade but never lacking in melancholy, Talk to Her offers sincere emotion and begs for a warm response. If our sympathies become conflicted it would seem to be a result of Almodóvar's willingness to challenge rather than endorse. The result is an exploration of the depths of caring for another human when reciprocation is not only impossible, but perhaps unwanted and even harmful.
4.) No Country for Old Men (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2007) -
The Coens defied genre conventions, expanded the idea of what one of their films could do, and deprived viewers of the cinematic closure many expected and wanted. The result often feels like a definitive statement for our times on fate and evil and the whims of each.
5.) 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002) -
Spike Lee's post-9/11 drama of loss has an increased resonance as a snapshot of a city greatly bruised yet unbroken. It's Lee's most assured and eloquent film, accentuated by Brian Cox's monologue near the end that presents that tearfully cathartic "what if" of a separate reality where the problems can just go away. The maturity in realizing that they can't, that anger must be alleviated and responsibility accepted, resonates far beyond these specific characters.
6.) Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001) -
Buried not too far beneath the surface of several of David Lynch's films is the reveal that he has a terrible disdain for Hollywood and the business of making movies. Of particular inspiration to Mulholland Dr. is Wilder's Sunset Blvd., twin pieces on the industry's penchant for turning dreams into nightmares. Lynch's nightmares always seem a tad scarier than everyone else's.
7.) Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000) -
They can't all be downbeat or depressing. Movies like Cameron Crowe's ode to discovering the pleasures (and accompanying neuroses) of being a rock star are so very rare nowadays. Unabashedly sentimental without drifting into the saccharine, Almost Famous isn't ashamed to leave the viewer with a little warmth in the belly.
8.) Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006) -
The most misunderstood film of the decade. People expected either something in the same vein as the television series or a more action-heavy experience while Mann preferred to explore the toll of a profession that encourages a loss of self and blurs authenticity. It asks whether true emotion is even possible in the course of pretending to be someone else and, if so, to what extent and end.
9.) Woman Is the Future of Man (Hong Sang-soo, 2004) -
Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo is a masterful chronicler of renewed acquaintances and the motivational role that time, place, alcohol and sex all play in human relationships. This story of two male friends who meet up after several years apart and soon decide to visit a woman with whom both have a history, seen via interspersed flashbacks, may not be Hong's most ambitious or even characteristic work but its concise gathering of so many of his favorite themes lends the film a remarkable vitality that resonates far beyond the comparatively short running time.
10.) Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003) -
One of the best films ever made about geographic disorientation. No other picture has mined the underlying sadness in Bill Murray's screen presence so well.
1) Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch 2001) -
The noir tale of ingénue Diane, bent back on itself and twisted into a Mobius strip, looping through dream and reality, is David Lynch’s masterpiece and one of the finest examples of postmodernistic innovation in film narrative we will ever see. The quest to decode the film’s meaning is an integral part of it all, a meta-mystery that many still can’t or won’t ‘get’—but then in this case to be misunderstood is to be great, right?
2) Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro 2006) -
A rare thing— a parallel reality/fantasy story that fuses into a perfect whole, weaving together themes of patriarchal evil and mythic escapism with a visual excellence that evokes the best Spanish painterly traditions from Goya to Dali. Above all though, Pan’s Labyrinth is truly heart-rending on so many levels, simultaneously beautiful and horrific in an astonishing way.
3) Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel 2004) -
Exploring the final days of Hitler’s rule from a German perspective, Downfall is at the same time a cathartic examination of the country’s sinister past, a marvellous ensemble drama and a truly great and epic war movie. All the characters are so well-drawn and the casting so accurate that the sense of realism is strikingly profound; and Bruno Ganz’s Hitler is an acting masterpiece, the best ever realisation of this often caricatured figure.
4) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel 2007) -
The story of paralysed Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, helmed by the painter Julian Schnabel, is unique in its artistry. Using ambitious camera techniques to re-create Bauby’s viewpoint and interior world, it is not itself a fantasy but shows the power of fantasy and the indomitability of the human spirit to overcome a hopeless predicament. A deeply moving and highly successful piece of experimental cinema.
5) The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson 2001) -
A one-of-a-kind movie, which, because of its odd compelling look, seems almost to take place in its own alternative universe. With a stellar ensemble cast, its story of a family of cracked geniuses works on many richly complex levels, having a distinctly autobiographical feel and running the gamut from deep and serious to light and comedic by turns—a positive fantasia of dysfunctionality.
6) In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai 2000) -
In a decade where special effects dominated as never before, Wong reminded us of the art of telling a story through pure cinema. Concerning a love affair that didn’t quite happen, it’s a nuanced, understated piece where the emotion is conveyed through vivid details and strong atmosphere—so effectively, in fact, that the final sense of loss is quite devastating.
7) Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman 2008) -
Kaufman, the writing mastermind behind such effortlessly surreal gems as Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, now reveals himself as a true auteur with this uncompromisingly personal vision of a theatrical tower of Babel, where life and art become parallel mirrors, refracting one another to the nth degree—a connoisseur masterwork of reality-bending cinema.
8) Memento (Christopher Nolan 2000) -
Long before Batman, Nolan gave us one the most original, quirky and puzzling films of the decade—a deconstructed film noir where the protagonist suffers from memory loss and the story is told in reverse. Such is the ingenuity of the movie that its inverted timeline becomes a feature of the mystery and a palpable embodiment of the disorientation of amnesia—another puzzle like Mulholland Dr., requiring more interaction than is usual in a viewing experience.
9) Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet 2001) -
The deceptively twee story of Amelie, who becomes a magical force for good, turning detective in order to restore the faded hopes and dreams of others, is actually a highly sophisticated and multi-levelled piece that addresses life’s big themes. Self-consciously metafilmic, it ices the cake of the everyday with a thick layer of fantasy and has become today’s equivalent of such classics as The Wizard of Oz and It’s a Wonderful Life.
10) Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann 2001) -
This bravura rampage on the senses embraced new VFX technology, marshalling elaborate sets, model-making and digital composting, together with a swooping camera and fast-cutting montage in order to create a 3D wonderland bohemian Paris that appeared to gush right out of writer Christian’s imagination. Using today’s pop music and an anything-goes approach, it took the musical to new places in a delirious Dennis Potter-on-absinthe kind of way.
1. Mulholland Dr. (2001, David Lynch) -
An absolute masterpiece, a mesmerising fever dream told by the king of fever dreams, and one of the most powerful achievements of cinema in the last decade. Whether it came about intentionally or completely by accident, it's an incredibly intoxicating cocktail of images, sounds and emotions, and one that I'm happy to call one of my favourite films ever created.
2. Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet) -
A refreshing example of a film that has no political or moral pretensions and one that simply wishes to tell the story of a strange but fascinating and genuinely delightful person who sets out to please others at the expense of her own fulfilment. People can berate it for sugar-coating and ignoring reality all they want, but at the end of the day there is nothing wrong with that.
3. Wall-E (2008, Andrew Stanton) -
Pixar's ninth feature length production and consecutive box office hit showcases the greatest animation studio of the present day at the top of its game, both its artistry and its storytelling having matured to the extent that the viewer is no longer focused on the technology behind the movie. Given my love of the medium, it always rankles me when people consider it praise to say that they forgot a film was animated, but in the case of Wall-E, the technical wizardry and the portrayal of the characters' emotions are such that it stands toe to toe with the best live action films in terms of believability.
4. Hannibal (2001, Ridley Scott) -
Unjustly maligned for not simply delivering more of the same, this unconventional follow-up to The Silence of the Lambs jettisons the police procedural structure of its predecessor in order to deliver a twisted riff on Beauty and the Beast, set in a rich, blackly comic Gothic world where opera, killer boars and brain eating rub shoulders.
5. Changeling (2008, Clint Eastwood) -
Proof that the words "Based on a true story" coupled with a running time in excess of two hours are not necessarily harbingers of tedium. Clint Eastwood spins a compelling web centred around a harrowing performance by Angelina Jolie, and proving that truth really can be stranger than fiction.
6. Atonement (2007, Joe Wright) -
Playing with chronology and seamlessly blending fantasy and reality, Atonement is a film about misunderstandings and the loss of innocence. Inventive and profoundly moving, it captures a wide range of tones perfectly, from naive pre-war optimism to the horrors of Dunkirk to its bittersweet conclusion, and proves that, when not forced to share the stage with gurning pirates, CGI squids and Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley can actually act. Oh, and there's that tracking shot...
7. The Descent (2005, Neil Marshall) -
Quite simply, a magnificent horror film, and one which proves that there remain few things more effective than placing a group of characters in a terrifying situation and seeing how they react. It's a horror film that is not ashamed to be one, but which at the same time avoids the pitfalls commonly associated with the genre. In short, a must-see.
8. Children of Men (2006, Alfonso Cuarón) -
As relevant to the present day as futuristic science fiction can be, Children of Men presents us with a deeply resonant dystopian view of what the world could potentially be like a few decades from now. Challenging, unsettling and poignant in equal measure, it confirms Cuarón as an unpredictable force to be reckoned with in the world of cinema.
9. Volver (2006, Pedro Almodóvar) -
Penélope Cruz gives a career-best performance in Pedro Almodóvar's whimsical yet touching exploration of the relationships between a family of women, a melodrama with a supernatural twist. One of two primarily "feel-good" films in my Top 10, there's not a great deal more I can think of to say about it. It simply sticks in my mind as one of the most pleasurable two hours I spent in front of the screen in the last ten years.
10. Les triplettes de Belleville (2003, Sylvain Chomet) -
A thoroughly unique tale that manages to combine a childish curiosity with more grown-up cynicism, Sylvain Chomet's excellent achievement in the field of animation shows that a film with little to no dialogue can be deeply engaging and that the Japanese aren't the only people capable of producing animation aimed primarily at an adult audience.
1. 2046 - Wong Kar-wai (2004) -
A darkly beautiful study of love, obsession, loss and regret, the complexity of memories and emotion are exquisitely rendered by Wong Kar-wai through light, colour, music, form, structure and narrative. Pure cinema, in other words.
2. Ten - Abbas Kiarostami (2002) -
Striving towards a form of pure cinema whose greater truth lies in a marriage between fiction and reality as well as between form and content, Kiarostami’s art lies in the remarkable alchemy that is achieved between the image and the viewer through a static camera in a car shooting long takes of everyday life and conflict in Tehran.
3. Vendredi Soir - Claire Denis (2002) -
Simplicity is the key to the brilliance of Friday Night, Claire Denis realising that within the context of a woman-meets-man situation and the course of their growing attraction over a single evening lie a multitude of wonders to be explored, and with the camera of Agnès Godard, she brilliantly achieves it.
4. Oasis - Lee Chang-dong (2002) -
The complexity of feelings and the expression of them are even more complex in a bizarre relationship between a young disabled woman and her would-be rapist, but tackling prejudice and challenging social acceptance, Korean director Lee Chang-dong gets to the heart of human emotions and their undeniable forceful nature.
5. Le pont des Arts - Eugène Green (2004) -
Infused in the baroque music of Monteverdi, the acting delivered in the minimalist style of Bresson with the director’s customary exaggerated formalism and mercurial variations in tone, Eugène Green’s extraordinary film explores the beauty and the tragedy that lies within opposing, conflicting ideas and ideals.
6. I Am From Titov Veles - Teona Strugar Mitevska (2007) -
Dealing with the legacy of the past and its influence over the present and the future of a small Macedonian town, I Am From Titov Veles combines personal experience, memory and impressions with an artistic sensibility that makes allusions to mythology, literature, poetry and painting, in the process creating a unique and deeply original work.
7. Be With Me - Eric Khoo (2005) -
Three simple yet beautiful little vignettes of misplaced love and failure to communicate are thematically linked and given a powerful emotional heart through the astonishing story of a deaf and blind woman who has managed to deal with almost insurmountable difficulties, blurring the lines between fact and fiction and achieving something even more meaningful
8. À travers la forêt - Jean-Paul Civeyrac (2005) -
Loss and bereavement, spirituality and corporeality, desperately clinging onto something or someone to make life meaningful or at least bearable, Civeryac’s formal digital experimentation and repeated retelling of the Orphic myth for the present day is taken to new depths of despair and darkness.
9. Dogville - Lars von Trier (2003) -
A director always just as willing to challenge himself as much as to provoke both audiences and critics alike, Lars von Trier managed both most brilliantly in Dogville’s formal Brechtian stage environment and the film’s searing criticism of American values and hypocrisy.
10. 5x2 - François Ozon (2004) -
Formal experimentation through a backward narrative trajectory has been used to powerful shock effect in a number of films in recent years, but through five scenes from a marriage in reverse, François Ozon most brilliantly continued his subversion of modern bourgeois attitudes towards sexuality and family values.
1. Syndromes and a Century (06/Weerasethakul) -
No other film this decade has haunted me quite so much as Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s fourth feature. The promise of Blissfully Yours and Tropical Malady blossomed into truly serene filmmaking, bursting with ideas and images. It’s a cliché to say, but Syndomes and a Century is genuinely dreamlike cinema, a dream I keep returning to time and again.
2. Avenge But One of My Two Eyes (05/Mograbi) -
The “noughties” saw a real return to political filmmaking, most famously with Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 but also with numerous smaller features gaining minor, but telling, appearances on the big screen. However, it took the much loved British DVD label Second Run to turn our attention to, in my opinion, the decade’s standout. Rarely does cinema achieve such impassioned, fierce and angry heights.
3. Decasia (02/Morrison) -
That obscure beast: the film which could only ever be conceived as film. Bill Morrison, aided by a fifty-strong orchestra and Michael Gordon’s terrific score, pieced together fragments of damaged and deteriorating film stock into a wonderful, beguiling fantasia. This was cinema in its death throes and it had never looked so beautiful.
4. No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (05/Scorsese) -
It’s been a good decade for Dylan: a host of excellent albums (and I’ll even support the recent Christmas offering), the publication of the first volume of his Chronicles autobiography, and this, arguably Scorsese’s finest work in some time. Rare footage, a slew of talking heads, and Dylan himself, as elusive as ever, combined to produce a definitive portrait of the artist as a young man.
5. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (06/Gordon & Parreno) -
The flipside to No Direction Home: another example of portrait cinema, but here it’s art, pure and simple. Not a new idea (see Football As Never Before, 1972, and its real-time take on George Best), though I can’t remember ‘the beautiful game’ ever being quite this beautiful on the big screen.
6. Memories of Murder (03/Bong) -
The finest piece of genre filmmaking this decade had to offer. Yet, as with Bong’s follow-up monster movie, The Host, it also never lost sight of life’s inherent eccentricities, emotions or humour.
7. Russian Ark (02/Sokurov) -
A breathtaking achievement and a keystone in digital cinema’s replacement of celluloid. Bypassing film’s in-built time limitations (the reel), Sokurov took us through Russia’s history in a single, awe-inspiring take.
8. 24 Hour Party People (02/Winterbottom) -
Brit film of the decade. Enough stories to occupy a dozen movies (see Anton Corbijn’s Control) and enough standout performances to ensure everyone has a favourite (including Steve Coogan’s only big screen role to match those he’s essayed on the small one), yet all held together by Michael Winterbottom with far more discipline than we should expect from a man happily dishing out one or two features a year.
9. American Psycho (02/Harron) -
The eighties nostalgia parade may have descended to the level of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but nearer the start of the decade we had exactly what it deserved: sharp, hilarious satire. A film which many expected to be thoroughly nasty really shouldn’t be this funny. And it’s worth remembering that Mary Harron was at the helm; the “noughties” have been a good decade for female directors and she thoroughly deserves to be in such company as Claire Denis, Jane Campion and Kathryn Bigelow (to name just three).
10. The Son (02/Dardenne & Dardenne) -
La Promesse and Rosetta presented the Dardenne brothers as the Belgian equivalent of Ken Loach. Here they fully demonstrated their own voice and offered up a wonderfully moving portrait of grief and bereavement. Special mention, too, for Oliver Gourmet’s lead performance - one of the stars of the decade.
1. Gake no Ue no Ponyo/Ponyo on the Cliff (2008, Hayao Miyazaki) -
We tend to think of the great fairytale storytellers as artists long past, but in Hayao Miyazaki we have one of the greatest of all time living among us. His unparalleled imagination stems from his ability to view the world through the eyes of a child and thus invite us to do the same - and the younger those eyes the simpler and more fantastical the feeling. In Ponyo, Miyazaki weaves an updating of The Little Mermaid from the perspective of a 5yr old boy and a sea-creature who longs to be human, combining the naiveté of My Neighbour Totoro with the visual magic of his ecological action-fantasies. It’s perhaps the quintessential Miyazaki film.
2. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003, Peter Jackson) -
The epic action fantasy to end all epic fantasies, it might be a little naughty to include a trilogy as a single entry in this list but in crafting one on-going 10hr+ adaptation of Tolkien’s beloved novels, Jackson created all the spectacle and grandeur that Lucas failed to deliver with his long-awaited Star Wars prequels. On sheer scale alone The Lord of the Rings takes my number two spot.
3. Salinui Chueok/Memories of Murder (2003, Bong Joon-ho) -
A rural community and its earthy police force struggle to deal with the first serial killer in South Korea’s history in Bong Joonh-ho’s brilliant true story. Despite the grim subject matter, Memories of Murder is surprisingly comical in tone as Bong focuses on how hopelessly out of their depth the local police are in dealing with their first real homicide cases, but little by little the director ramps up the drama until by the final act you are gripped in the same vice of anxious uncertainty and desperation as the increasingly more invested detectives.
4. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson) -
“My goodness. How interesting. How bizarre!” to quote Raleigh St. Clair who could almost be breaking the fourth wall to direct that comment at Wes Anderson’s masterpiece: a fantastically surreal comic-book examination of a dysfunctional dynasty of middle-class geniuses reunited with their roguish patriarch as they tackle their own individual demons. The Royal Tenenbaums is a joyous comi-drama that manages to maintain a sense of poignancy, absurdity and is delightfully surprising right until the very end.
5. Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004) -
A comic jaunt through the wineries of California as two middle-aged best friends go on one last hurrah before one of them becomes married, like the fine wines that Miles and Jack explore; Alexander Payne has managed to bottle up the esoteric nature of male camaraderie in a form that will be enjoyed for many years to come.
6. Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi/Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki) -
Alice in Wonderland re-invented for a Japanese audience by Hayao Miyazaki. Spirited Away is every bit as trippy and entertaining as Carroll’s classic, as Miyazaki unleashes a whole plethora of wonderful spirits and creatures that will capture the imagination of all audiences.
7. Boksuneun Naui Geot/Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002, Park Chan-wook) -
A botched kidnapping leads to bloody retribution in this artful drama from Park Chan-wook, where the rawness of the character’s emotions is counterpointed by a very structured, poetic visual style. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is both stylishly bold and tragically heartbreaking.
8. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000, Joel and Ethan Coen) -
Not only one of the funniest films of the new millennium, but arguably the finest musical too! The Coens’ wacky adaption of The Odyssey is a wonderful celebration of all forms of southern discourse in the 1930s. Aside from having one of their tightest scripts, the combination of Roger Deakins’ sepia tinged cinematography and T-Bone Burnett/Carter Burwell’s Old Timey music makes O Brother, Where Art Thou a sumptuous assault on the senses.
9. Fa Yeung Nin Wa/In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000) -
For me there are few films out there that can truly be considered as a sensual experience, but Wong Kar Wai’s effortlessly cool tale of a short-lived illicit affair between two people whose spouses are secretly having an affair with each other is an absolutely exquisitely shot and directed mood piece. The title couldn’t be any more appropriate.
10. Monday (SABU, 2000) -
A man wakes up in a hotel room after a drunken binge with no memory of the night before. By examining his pockets and the room around him he little-by-little starts to piece together events more bizarre and concerning than he ever could have imagined. SABU takes full advantage of this simple but ingenuous set up to weave a wacky comedy that builds up wonderfully into a completely insane and unexpected finale.
1. No Country For Old Men (2007, Coen Brothers) -
A stark, terrifying vision of moral chaos, this offers exquisite suspense, gorgeous cinematography, the great Tommy Lee Jones at his most taciturn and one of the most audacious endings in cinema history. I never much liked the Coen Brothers before this and I haven't liked them since but this is quite simply one of the greatest American films ever made.
2. Passion and Poetry: The Ballad Of Sam Peckinpah (2005, Mike Siegel) -
Beautiful, endlessly moving and genuinely insightful, this documentary about Sam Peckinpah breaks your heart and inspires you to watch his movies once again.
3. Femme Fatale (2002, Brian De Palma) -
In which De Palma demonstrates that he's the only one of the Movie Brats who still takes genuine chances and makes films worth watching more than once. Vastly underrated and little seen, this thriller is deliciously suspenseful, mordantly witty and directed with seemingly effortless brilliance.
4. The End Of The Affair (2000, Neil Jordan) -
Edging up alongside The Third Man in the pantheon of the best of Graham Greene on screen, Neil Jordan's faithful version of the master's most personal and heartfelt novel is a work of sheer loving care from start to finish.
5. Spider (2002, David Cronenberg) -
Before Cronenberg went (relatively) mainstream, he made one of his best works in this obscure, difficult and elliptical drama about a schizophrenic trapped inside the nightmare of his own past. Ralph Fiennes' extraordinary performance confirms that he is one of the best actors we have.
6. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson) -
One of the saddest things about the Noughties was the retirement of the marvellous Gene Hackman but this, one of his final performances, was a fine tribute to his skill. He provides a solid centre of controlled emotion around which Wes Anderson's customary troupe of actors can revolve and thus make Anderson's very particular brand of whimsy seem more controlled than usual. Equally notable is the wonderful use of some great songs and, in an unforgettable scene of snowy desolation, Bob Dylan's Final Theme from Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid.
7. About Schmidt (2002, Alexander Payne) -
In a great decade for acting, Jack Nicholson has largely continued to plough his usual furrow of pantomime eccentricity. But in Alexander Payne's brilliant comic drama, he gave his best performance for years as Payne forced him inside a character. The results are electrifying, contained within a film bursting with wit and unsentimental emotion.
8. Brokeback Mountain (2005, Ang Lee) -
A breakthrough in many ways, this has emerged from the hype as a heartbreaking study of lost lives, relating to love in many ways and not simply homosexual. It's also a memorable tribute to the skills of the much-missed Heath Ledger and the undervalued Jake Gyllenhall. Ang Lee's ability to marshal a strong ensemble cast in a penetrating vision of America has never been better focused.
9. Haute Tension (2003, Alexandre Aja) -
The harbinger of the new wave of French horror still packs quite a punch with nail-biting suspense, brilliantly sustained set-pieces and a delightfully cheeky ending that should please as many people as it outrages.
10. Notes On a Scandal (2006, Richard Eyre) -
It may seem surprising that the former director of the National Theatre and the doyenne of British Dames should have been involved in one of the most pleasurably nasty films I've seen in a long time, but this is it. Judi Dench has never been better in anything else than she is in this as an embittered spinster and the unrelentingly cruel bleakness of the story is tempered by Patrick Marber's witty dialogue.
1. Hidden (Haneke, 2005) -
I am the kind of person who loves a film that points out how shabby I am. I can tell you that Hidden has got my number, and revisiting it makes me far less likely to keep forgetting and being blind to myself. For its power and its prophecy, Hidden is a masterpiece.
2. Dolls (Kitano, 2002) -
Takeshi Kitano has spent the last 10 years with in jokes, deflection and a reflexiveness which has been all about hiding himself. Dolls though was the exception that proved the rule - sincere, heartbreaking and moving and the reason why a lot of us love this particular polymath so.
3. Exiled (To, 2006) -
I adored Exiled. An action film where exigencies are shown as irrelevant and the predictable cinematic world of gangster psychology is forgotten...It all boils down to men fighting over nothing and killing themselves, laughing at the nonsense of it all as they breath their last.
4. Dark Water (Nakata, 2002) -
Hideo Nakata brought J-horror to the world with Ringu but Dark Water was a much more elegant and moving take on the horror movie. It stands as the best horror film of this decade because it will creep you out as well as move you.
5. Hero (Director's cut) (Yimou, 2002) -
Zhang Yimou re-invented the wuxia pian and proved that his operatic film-making was almost as much fun as his more intimate almost neo-realist works. Hero is cinema as painting with a fantasy cast and the world's greatest cinematographer bewitching your eyes throughout.
6. Haute Tension (Aja, 2003) -
Balls to the wall horror that showed just some of what French horror movies would start to create in the last decade. Aja's film drives, and drives and drives with the kind of tension and violent pay-offs that just enthralled fans of visceral horror.
7. Battle Royale (Director's cut) (Fukasaku, 2000) -
Kinji Fukasaku's films sum up the post war suspicions of a generation betrayed by its elders and Battle Royale does this better than most. The adults make schoolchildren pay for the world they created and polemics and passion scream out of a peculiar and poetic film of dog eat dog. Innocence is lost but virtue survives.
8. Sparrow (To, 2008) -
Ever since To has freed himself of the rigours of faithful screenplays and shooting schedules, his work has deepened and become much more genuine, spontaneous, and emotionally strong....Sparrow is a flighty film that may seem like inconsequential fluff at first. Further viewing should be enough to convince those who saw only superficiality that there is much more here than whimsy.
9. Martyrs (Laugier, 2008) -
Martyrs is the best of the recent crop of French horror films, it is directed with an unflinching commitment to realism...It combines art house sensibilities with the unrelenting pursuit of something you won't want to be shown, an effect that I would compare with the best of Lucio Fulci's aggression tempered by a far more committed and enlightened intellect.
10. Vengeance (To, 2009) -
Johnny Halliday is set on avenging the murder of his daughter's family but he needs help badly. In another country and with his memory failing him, will he stay alive and if he does will he remember what, who or why he is there. To deconstructs gangsters, language and revenge and his images have never been so loving of the genre he pulls apart. Extraordinary.