In honour of Mark’s “10 best movies of the fearsome decade.”
Just keep in mind that I was not that great of a moviegoer this decade before you start pelting me with rotten food items. For what it’s worth, I tried to be somewhat objective, and did not include merely a clutch of my favourite movies. Well, somewhat. Hold the grapefruit and go with the tomatoes. Tomatoes are softer.
10. The 40 Year Old Virgin
… Is the sort of movie you have to put on when a part of you wants to end it all in a tiresomely melodramatic fashion (bottle of champagne, tall building, no pre-“sugar tits” Mel Gibson to save your stupid ass). Paul Rudd alone is a celebration of existence.
9. 28 Days Later
Sing this to the tune of “Tubthumping”: Oh, Danny Boyle, Danny Boyle, Danny Boyle. I know that “Slumdog Millionaire” won a bunch of Oscars, but still, this is the best Danny Boyle film of all time. OF ALL TIME. The images of a fantastically devastated London can never quite be erased from memory. Plus, Cillian Murphy gets naked. Plus, it’s brilliant, and horrifyingly believable.
8. A Very Long Engagement (Un long dimanche de fiançailles)
“Whaaaat,” you’re saying. “You’re picking this Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie over Amelie?” Yes, yes, I am. Amelie was beautiful, but Engagement is more beautiful. Amelie was profound, but Engagement is more profound. Amelie was darling, but Engagement is practically mythical. I think it was must have been really hard for Jeunet to have people really get this movie in a post-Amelie world. But now that the dust has settled, I come back to it and see how fucking epic it is all the more clearly.
7. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
This is the best film in the Peter Jackson trilogy. I am damn proud to say that I saw it 7 times in the theater – I don’t care if you give me a wedgie and stuff me back into my locker for admitting as much.
Legolas rocks the blond wig, Viggo Mortensen is pitch-perfect as Strider, Ian McKellen very nearly kicks Christopher Lee’s ass, Sean Bean and Liv Tyler give the best performances of their respective careers (do NOT whine to me about how they expanded Arwen’s character and blah blah blah antiquated notions of femininity blah blah) and and nobody has yet gotten tired of Frodo’s adorable deer-eyes. And the soundtrack is only the best soundtrack of all time.
Sure, there’s no Helm’s Deep or anything, but the fighting is not the point. FotR goes deeper than that. It is a great illustration of the long defeat that Tolkien explored in his work, completely understandable plot changes be damned.
6. The Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le pacte des loups)
This movie is the most beautiful mess of all beautiful messes ever created by humanity. My friend, movie critic Larry Toppman, wrote that Brotherhood is “as much at home in caves or bordellos as it is a starchy drawing room,” and he was correct. It’s magical and violent, and both an elegant hat-tip to movies like “Jaws” and, at the same time, its own beast. Brotherhood celebrates the love of the preposterous. It reminds us that every once in a while, you have to be a goddamn libertine and just go with it.
5. Lost In Translation
I guess nobody really needed any more reasons to love Bill Murray, or Scarlett Johansson, or Sofia Coppola when this movie came out. But the alchemy in this one was so excellent, and so precise, that you had to bow before its glory anyway. In many ways, its an alienating movie about alienation (most of my Japanese friends hated it, and I don’t blame them), but then it cracks open your heart, and that’s what makes all the difference. That moment when Johansson’s character is observing a wedding ceremony still gives me goosebumps.
4. Monsoon Wedding
Mira Nair’s best film, I think. It’s Bollywood mixed with Jane Austen, except it’s not some sort of cutesy remake or rip-off. It’s its own thing. And it’s gorgeous and hopeful.
3. Russian Ark (Russkiy Kovcheg)
The entirety of this film is composed of one long, uninterrupted shot, and that alone should win director Alexander Sokurov respect and admiration for decades to come. But “Russian Ark” is more than a gimmick. It’s a haunting and tender rumination on centuries of Russian history, and its final moments had me blubbering like a little bitch. Sokurov has an uncanny ability to resurrect ghosts, and, to paraphrase Craig Raine, to make them see, to make them hear, to make them here.
2. The Return (Vozvrashenie)
Andrei Zvyagintsev channeled Jesus and Sophocles to work his strange hoodoo in a rural, stripped-down, dream-like Russia. “The Return” is one of the smartest movies I’ve ever seen, and it also manages to be one of the most sincere movies that I’ve ever seen. It’s mystical and frightening, and speaks to you about faith in way that, I think, makes people profoundly uncomfortable in this day and age. But it’s so much more than an arty provocation. Zvyagintsev may be an heir to Tarkovsky, but he is also his own person. And what he does is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
It’s my belief that the best films are the ones that tell the best stories. This movie tells several great stories, and does it in a way that resembles poetry. Fuck it – it is poetry. And that makes it the greatest film of the decade. For me. In the year 2000, the contest was pretty much over already. Life is funny that way.