Wednesday December 09, 2009
The Best Movies of the Decade
I began this decade with my first professional movie review, of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's “The Flowers of Shanghai,” published in The Seattle Times on January 28, 2000, and am ending it with amateur—that is, non-paid— reviews on my Web site. Kind of sums up the decade. More and more of our activities are moving online, for which we're getting paid less and less. Or nothing.
But it means I've been writing about movies for 10 years now—first with The Seattle Times, then with MSNBC, and with sidetrips to MSN, The New York Times (Op-Ed), and The Believer—and yet I'm still wary of compling a list of the best films of the decade. I know if I'd done something similar 10 years ago I would've left off what I now consider my two favorite films of that decade—“The Thin Red Line” (1998) and “The Insider” (1999)—because, even by December 1999, I hadn't seen either one. That's the main reason the movies below aren't listed in any particular order. I want a discussion more than anything. Maybe I'm hoping that, in that discussion, something better will shake loose.
Each poster is linked to a good review or analysis of that movie. Many of the links are self-serving (they're mine) and many are not (Roger Ebert, Scott Foundas, David Edelstein). Warning: The New York Observer seems to have a problem with paragraph breaks. Or Andrew Sarris does.
Some of the movies below make it because they're just fun (“Kung Fu Hustle”; “X-Men 2”; “Riding Giants”). Some make it because I happened to fall in love with certain scenes (the “Me and Julio” montage in “Tenenbaums”; the silent film in “Talk to Her”). The best work slowly and leave us with a kind of existential amazement (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”; “Spring Summer Autumn Winter...and Spring”; “L'Heure d'ete”). Interesting to note: there's only one best picture from the Academy in the bunch: “No Country for Old Men.” Meanwhile, if I had to choose my best picture of the decade, I'd probably go with Roman Polanski's “The Pianist.” Thus far.
A lot of war here. The decade began with “Black Hawk Down,” a sober tale of attempted nation-building in Somalia in 1993, and it ends with “The Hurt Locker,” a sober tale of attempted nation-building in Iraq in 2004, and in-between we got cartoons and superheroes. How have we changed? “Black Hawk Down” was releaed into 3,000 theaters, was no. 1 at the box office for three weeks, and it made over $100 million domestically. “The Hurt Locker” never rose above 535 theaters and never made more than $13 million domestically. Apparently we don't want to know about it anymore. Not when we can watch giant space robots battling each other for the primacy of our sun.
But that's the bad stuff. Here's the good. Discussion welcome.