Before we begin – I would like to offer the disclaimer that this list is not a list of what I think are the best or most important movies of the decade. My music list was that, filtered of course through my own experiences. With films however I do not hit as broad a spectrum of stuff simply because there is just not that much time in the day. Music I can listen to while I write, stopping now and again to reflect on things that catch my ear. With film of course that is not possible. When I do have time to watch flicks it’s always at night, with the lights off, and in the proper state of mind. I believe you should give yourself over to the experience of a film, regardless of length, as one entire entity. This is probably why I was not one of the folks not irritated with David Lynch for releasing Mulholland Drive on DVD without Chapter stops.
Okay, so here’s my list:
Donnie Darko (Theatrical Cut) - I go on about this one often enough that I won’t do so again here. Suffice it to say that I still cry every time I watch this film. Darko is Perfect, Beautiful, Charming and so full of Wonderment that I believe it touches some primordial, archetypal pool of shared experience within us all when it comes to experiencing the unknown and wishing for a way to just make it all okay.
There Will Be Blood – I don’t even know what to say. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights would be on my list of ten from the 90’s and as un-freakin-believably awesome as that film is TWBB is just light years beyond even it. I know, I know, apples and oranges – I don’t mean to compare them for entertainment value, but as far as PTA’s craft as an already extremely talented filmmaker goes the level of evolution here is just staggering. TWBB is film at its best – quiet when it needs to be, possessing of a potent and often frightening tension and steered by a character (and actor) so eminently memorable, so absolutely explosive from that screen and our own memories as viewers that he immediately joined the likes of Jack Nicholson in Kubrick’s The Shining and Dennis Hopper in Lynch’s Blue Velvet as one of the most quotable/applicable to real life. I’ll stop yammering, but I’ll be damned if this wasn’t top tier of cinema thus far in human existence, let alone the last ten years.
Mulholland Drive – I went opening day to see this one and I’ll never forget the feeling I had that first time. I sat in the audience and almost started to cry because all I could think was ‘I hate this. It’s weird just for the sake of being weird.’
Then I went back the very next day and watched it again.
It was better. I started to unlock many of the film’s obtuse and subversive elements – for example, what I had mistaken for bad acting from Naomi Watts in the first portion was a really knock-out, spot-on performance delivering Lynch’s character’s purposely over-the-top characterization of the age-old archetype of good little Midwest girl who brings her star-struck dreams and ‘gosh darnit!’ determination to the city of dreams – and nightmares. There’s so much that is wonderful about this film that by the time I left the theatre the third day (yes, in a row) I knew without a doubt that it was Mr. Lynch’s masterpiece to date then and would be hard to beat from after. And as much as I LOVED Inland Empire, it’s not nearly as tight and effective as MD.
The Departed – Upon seeing the trailer for this in the theatre I was at a low tolerance point with Scorsese. I’m not even really sure why. I figured this was the same movie again (you know, Goodfellas, Goodfellas II (aka Casino) and M.S. had just swapped out Nicholson for Deniro.
Boy was I was wrong. Thank God. I didn’t think any crime thriller would ever move me again after I burnt out hard on digesting the entire genre in high school (early 90’s). But now, for the record, there’s Goodfellas, Scarface, Carlito’s Way and The Departed and, to quote Jimmie Hetfield, as far as mob movies go, ‘nothing else matters’.*
House of 1000 Corpses – I don’t care what anyone else says. The. Best. Horror. Film. Last. Twenty. Years.** Some others have come close. Inside almost made this list. Oh so close. But I can’t deny House – it is a fantasmagoric pastiche masterpiece – a visual feast for the eyes. Yeah, a lot of it could be seen as fanboy-style retread – so is Paul’s Boutique when you get right down to it. House is the horror film equivalent of the Dust Bros/Beastie Boys Sampladelic masterpiece – taking source material they love, dipping it in blacklight and lighting it up with some awesome new takes. But where did this Rob Zombie go?
Brick – When I first heard about Brick it sounded interesting. Then it was explained to me that the star was the annoying little kid from that tv show everyone in my family like but I hated. I skipped it. I eventually came back around to Brick on video and discovered just what a judgmental douche bag I’d been – Joseph Gordon- Levitt is, from everything I’ve seen him in, a fantastic actor, reminiscent of Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt at their best. He picks his roles and has a general love for what he does (you can tell) and in quite a few films now he has absolutely ‘Wowed’ me.
But Brick is still the best.
Mickey Spillane pulp-noir meets modern day high school life. There is something thus far intangible that links Brick to both Donnie Darko and another film I love, Sophia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. The lighting yes – very definitely a softer, almost constant dream-like atmosphere between the three induced by great lighting and directors who know what they want. But it’s also I think the ability to evoke teenage nostalgia that makes me remember what it was like to look at this dirty, jaded world with new, special ‘anything-is-possible’ kind of eyes.
Oh yeah, and Brick has just about the best fucking dialogue this side of The West Wing.
May – If you haven’t seen this film stop reading this NOW. I always want everyone to see this one from the completely uninformed approach I did. All the better.
I said I was only picking one horror film and I wasn’t lying because I do not consider May a horror film at all. Lucky McKee’s reflection on modern isolation and loneliness is an uncomfortable tour de force – Angela Bettis’ performance manages to intrigue, seduce and repulse most viewers to the point that her wretchedly misguided attempts at social interaction with the few human beings surrounding her often makes one physically squirm in their seat (cuddling up to a sleeping Jeremy Sisto’s hand in the coffee shop? AHH!!!)
And then at the end, some really freaky shit goes down.
Requiem For A Dream – I’ll probably never watch it again but the fact that a series of images on celluloid with a soundtrack could so totally destroy me for a days on end makes it, while not my favorite film, definitely one of the best of the decade. Just like PTA Aronofsky’s craft here is remarkable – and very beautiful to look at. But beauty can be the beast and as gorgeous of a film as Requiem is those last twenty minutes or so just ruin me, so it sits on my shelf and taunts me to have the balls to pick it up again. Maybe one day…
Slumdog Millionaire – Everything Danny Boyle does is remarkable but Slumdog was just megaton sensory overload awesome. I left the theatre the one time I’ve seen it (keep meaning to correct that) overjoyed, happy to be alive, and at the same time possessed of such a remarkable sadness that the world is the way it is. Just like Sunshine, 28 Days Later and Trainspotting (I didn’t see the others in the theatre) one of the things that I think is so important about Boyle as a filmmaker is his extravagantly specific attention to the detail of the sounds in his films – he makes the things for the Public Cinema Houses – there are always points in his films where I feel that my face is going to be torn off or my brains melted by sheer overload of emotionally-charged sound. I’m not just talking about music, I’m talking about Apocalypse-Now-like detail – what one can only imagine must be a full 64 tracks bursting the cityscape into aurally sweet multi-dimensional life, or two dozens different harmonically valid frequencies tearing at your inner ear as metal rends open and explosions follow. Slumdog had all of this and it had a remarkable story, characters and visuals. What more can you ask for?
The House of the Devil - What more can you ask for? How about SATAN!!! Seriously, I said I was only picking one horror movie but turns out I was lying. How can I turn away from my roots? I’m a horror hound and this is tied for best horror film of the decade with House, so how could I leave it off? If it hadn’t been so different from House I might have, but as much as I love the kind of 190 mph visually oriented flick Zombie hit it out of the park with on his first (and best) film Ti West’s HOTD is the exact opposite in a lot of ways. Quiet, sparse and sublime this film blew me away with such a slow and steady pace that when the third act hit it walloped me upside the head and left me dizzy for breath.
Thank You Mr. West.
Well, that’s ten. I’ve only one more self-indulgent list to go (songs of the decade, mostly to try and make up to some of my musical loves for not making the album list) and then I’ll stop my obsessive listing and return to my usual call-to-arms for the blood of washed up rockers, media darlings and ann ‘its-not-a-sin-if-its-at-the-poor’s-expense’ coulter.
’til then, be on the look out for crazy fat men coming down your chimney. Don’t let ‘em get you, add some rohypnol to the milk and show off your catch the next day at the in-laws!!!
* What about the Godfather you say? I wholeheartedly agree with Peter Griffin – The Godfather insists upon itself. My friend Walter tells me that The Godfather is like Beethoven – it may not be as indelibly catchy as say The Pixies but it’s good for you. We’ll see. I re-rent it again some day and probably blog about my reaction here.
** Actually tied – read on and I’ll explain.