I got some nice feedback with numbers 25-11 yesterday, so thanks to everyone that commented. I can’t wait to hear what you folks think about the rest! Continuing right where we left off yesterday, I present you with my top 10 films of the decade. Ready-set-GO!
After some concise, simplistic character development, Apocalypto throws our main protagonist headfirst into a nonstop, tightly paced adventure that will suck you right in from the very first moment. The movie is shot in such a way that it makes you feel as if you are along for this frightening ride with “Jaguar Paw” as he and his fellow tribesmen are tortured and beaten along the way to their impending sacrifice. His motivation to escape is so overwhelming, that there is nothing that will stop him from getting back to his preggers wife and son, and the tension built from him looking for any opening to escape is incredible. With the use of Yucatec Maya dialogue, the amazing nobody acting and the true to history locations and costume design, Apocalypto is like watching history come to life in the truest sense.
9. Requiem for a Dream
I caught Requiem at the local (at the time) dollar theater and walked out of it mentally crushed by how unapologetically bleak and dark it was. Darren Aronofsky took what he had started with his feature debut PI, mixed with the intense writings of Hubert Selby Jr. and brought to life a story with themes of obsession and the clouded madness that can come from one’s infatuation. Technically, it is a stylishly made film filled with dreamlike (and nightmare like) qualities and an erratic editing style that would inspire many less than capable filmmakers still to this day. From television, obsessing about one’s looks, to over the counter medicine and street drugs, the numerous themes of addiction are something that could hit home for a lot of viewers and that is where the movie’s effect is strongest. On a side note, Ellen Burstyn was robbed by that fish face scrub for the Oscar…maybe Burstyn would have won if she made her tits look bigger.
8. Battle Royale
Even with films such as Ringu and Ju-on being best known for spearheading an explosion of interest (and remakes) in dark Japanese cinema, another film that may be just as impactful, but certainly less mainstream, is Battle Royale. A social commentary about the injustices of government, Battle Royale had a lot to say politically, but what it came down to was a bunch of high school kids forced to kill their classmates for the purpose of population control. The brilliant idea of a last man standing, no escape or your head will come clean off, game, played by kids nonetheless, is jarring and incredibly taboo. This is a film that got me to seek out even more Asian cinema than just what it had to offer horror wise and that influence is something that led to me watching other films, films that are also on this list.
7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Here is another example of a game changer…one that influenced cinema and introduced a lot of people to a world of Martial Arts films outside of what people saw in America. I grew up on the genre, a genre that is more than vast, and to go to a theater and see a movie as well crafted as Crouching Tiger was quite mind-blowing. The fight scenes are some of the best and most beautiful action sequences ever put to screen and the look of the film is more than brilliant with explosive colors and amazing locations. Even outside of the grand brawls, the epic love story was so immense, it could have stood alone as a non-Martial Arts movie.
6. Let the Right One In
One of the freshest and most original takes on the Vampire genre couldn’t have come at a better time. A beautiful movie from head to toe, Let the Right One In is a very complex and deep film, one that can inspire many different thoughts and theories all wrapped up in what is a basic story about loneliness. Two completely different characters in similar places, but for entirely opposite reasons, you cannot help but feel for both Eli and especially Oscar. There is so much depth to each of these characters and their harrowing back stories that they are destined to come together, with each one needing something that can be found in the other. Let the Right One In shows what can be done in the horror genre, a genre that is often frowned upon. And that ending! But that’s for another time.
5. The Two Towers
Love the Lord of the Rings films, but by far the best one of the trilogy for me is, The Two Towers. Right from the hair-raising “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” opening and on through to the final battle for Helm's Deep, I was blown away, jaw dropped all the way to the floor when I saw this film. It is one of the most epic, grand and fucking awesome action/fantasy films ever made and the rollercoaster of emotions that are gone through when watching it are intense.
Being able to take a revenge film and make something that is as beautiful, operatic, and thought provoking as Oldboy, is an amazing feat. It has a challenging story that left me thinking for days, rationalizing the decisions that Oh Dae-su made and thinking how wrong is it to do what he did for love? There is no other film that touches on such subject matter and as shocking as it may be, it is made to be almost understandable coming from his perspective. That takes balls. Chan-wook Park has a visual style all his own and one that is better than most every filmmaker working today. The use of colors, patterns, and camera angles come together in a way that can almost boggle the senses - throw in a song like The Last Waltz and you have a film that will forever be embedded into my personal cinema history as groundbreaking.
Say what you will about M. Night, he can make an amazing film and has done so a few times now. With the exception of The Happening, I pretty much love all that he has done, but Unbreakable is his masterpiece and one of my all time favorite films. First off, the realistic approach to comic book characters is done so well, it is to the point that you almost have no idea that you are essentially watching a comic book movie…if super heroes were real that is. The acting is top notch and that leads to what is the biggest strength of Unbreakable and that is it’s emotionally driven scenes. There are at least three scenes that choke me up every time I watch this one and the emotion is created in so many different ways. All of the scenes involving David and his son are enough to send chills right down my spine.
2. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Well, I just gushed over the man a few movies ago and here we go again. Many people give me a strange look, or a typed “really?!” when I say that I like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance more than Oldboy, but I do and that has not always been the case either. Showing just how great Chan-wook Park is, Mr. Vengeance could not be any more different from Oldboy in almost every sense, outside of the revenge aspect that is. It is the definition of slow burn, and yet, it has more going on in it than you think and you don’t even realize it until a second, or even a third viewing. Everything about how this story is told is done in a (technically and narratively) slow moving and very quiet, natural way and it goes along so greatly with the deaf character of Ryu and how he is forced to communicate to the world around him. There is a lot of shit going on in this movie, yet, nothing is force fed to the viewer and we are left to understand what is happening, because it happens, not because someone told us. Park doesn’t treat his audience like children with no ability to think. I have sooooo much more to say about this film and once again, this is not the time, nor the place…so I need to move on.
1. Children of Men
By far and without a doubt, the best movie of the decade in every way, shape and form. The story is very layered and deep, with extreme undertones that mirror modern society in so many ways that to get into it here would be a terrible idea and a very long one at that! It is made in a way that you are on an adventure with Theo and not once are you ever away from this character. Even when he is not the focus of a scene, he is just around the corner and his presence is very known to the viewer and so important to the story. There is much to be said about what the miracle baby represents and the impact and effect on everyone involved, whether it be positive, or negative, the baby represents something greater than flesh and blood and it brings out the worst in people, or the most heroic.
There are a few scenes in this film that are beyond astounding and the one in the car when the protagonists are attacked is so mind-blowing, but it is the end that really does it for me. The last 15-20 minutes of Children of Men is the most powerful, chaotic, frightening, hopeful, and beautiful 15-20 minutes in cinema history. Period. I so want to go on about this movie, but I will save my ramblings for a better time. The fact is, Children of Men is my favorite movie of all time, for the time being and unless something else better comes along, then it will remain that way.
Aaaand…done! I had some honorable mentions, but decided to scrap that idea at the last second. There are plenty of other movies that I loved and could have made this list, but to bump anything else off wasn’t going to happen. Once you hit a ceiling, you have to stop and I didn’t want to name movies just to name them…there are too many and it seems pointless. This is the list and I am very happy with it - these are all films I have and will watch many times and films that will give me something new with each viewing. I certainly want to hear your thoughts on my list and if there is anything you disagree with or think I missed, tell me all about it. Thanks for sticking this one out guys – see ya on the other side!