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January 11, 2010

7

100 Favorite Films of 2000-2009 (20-11)

by Franz Patrick


20


Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Those who believe that Quentin Tarantino is slowly losing his touch when it comes to filmmaking and storytelling should watch this film. “Inglourious Basterds” essentially covers three groups of characters: Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and his men’s quest to hunt, scalp, and kill Nazis; the intimidating Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa, a Nazi hunter who prefers to be categorized as a detective more than a weapon of genocide; and Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus, who survived Waltz’ massacre three years ago and had plans of her own to avenge her family. Divided into five sublime chapters, although this was a World War II picture to begin with, it became so much more than that. In the second half, it became about a project about the love for the cinema and using that as a template to put these very intense characters under one roof.


19


Kill Bill (2003-2004)

Uma Thurman should’ve been nominated for an Oscar because she was extremely engaging and convincing as a bride who was hell-bent on getting revenge from her former collegues (Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine). The dialogue, the props, the characters, the story, the soundtrack–all were perfectly handled (not to mention memorable) throughout. I know that the studios decided to divide this movie into two because they deemed it “too long.” But I will always consider it as a one giant film just as Quentin Tarantino originally intended it to be. I’ve seen this picture about ten times and I never get tired of it. Since Tarantino packed it with a plethora of cultural references, I always find something new in it. For that reason alone, I consider “Kill Bill” a treasure.


18


Keane (2004)

Written and directed by Lodge Kerrigan, “Keane” was about a man (Damian Lewis) who wandered the streets of New York City claiming that he lost his daughter. This film impressed me because it dealt with mental illness with such sensitivity but it never takes the Lifetime route. Unlike most movies about people with mental illness, this picture did not showcase them as violent just because they were struggling psychologically. I saw “Keane” when I was in high school while taking my first Psychology course. It absolutely fascinated me and I began to crave for more information beyond what was presented in the classroom. That passion is still with me today and I will always give this movie credit for really pushing me to not just learn the disease but to also understand the people who have to go through such struggles. This is a small independent feature film so not a lot of people have seen it which is unfortunate. The performances here, especially by Lewis, are just top-notch.


17


Imaginary Heroes (2004)

“Imaginary Heroes,” written and directed by Dan Harris, told the story of the Travis family after one of the members of the family committed suicide. I saw this movie when I was on my first or second year of high school and I remember considering it as a good film. But after watching it for the second time at the end of my high school career, I considered it a great film. The movie reminds me of my family: the loving yet flawed parents, the lack of communication between siblings, the quest for identities, the feeling of being the black sheep of the family… all of which I could relate to. The one scene that resonated to me the most was when the father (Jeff Daniels) gave his son (Emile Hirsch) a forced embrace when they couldn’t bear the darkness in their lives anymore. Something exactly like that happened to me and my dad. This is still a deeply personal film for me even though I’m no longer at that stage in my life when all I could think about was the hatred I had for everything including myself.


16


Elephant (2003)

This social issue movie, written and directed by Gus Van Sant, stayed with me for a long time after watching it because it made me really sad and scared. Watching a film like this, especially hearing about school shootings in the news, really changes one’s outlook on high school. One must wonder what must go through the shooters’ minds so that they could do something really horrible. But this movie took it to the next level: it was not about asking why they did it–it merely observes instead of making judgment, which is all the more painful. I wish there was a way I can tell unhappy high school kids that things do get better and that they don’t have to be miserable for the rest of their lives–that there is an escape, an alternative; that there’s no need to result to violence because, in the end, if they do choose the path of violence, they’ll only be ruining their lives and those who care about them. This film was hard to swallow, not only because it was more of an experimental film, but also in regards with its subject matter. This is not the kind of picture that one enjoys but experiences.


15


Kinsey (2004)

Written and directed by Bill Condon, “Kinsey” is a great film about the scientific acquisition of information about sex. I saw this movie when it first came out on DVD and it remains one of my favorites because of its unflinching look at a man’s life and his utter devotion to his work. Even though everything around him started to fall apart, Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) remained focused and objective. His study on human’s sexual behavior paved a way for the American society to become more aware about sex, to be able to talk about it more freely, to defy the norm and to realize that sex was a natural thing. I especially liked the bit about Kinsey’s “relationship” with one of his co-workers (Peter Sarsgaard), his conflict with one of his family members, and his interaction with his ever-loving wife, played beautifully and elegantly by Laura Linney. This film is one of my favorite biopics because it felt very personal without being too sentimental. By the end of this picture, I wish I had met Kinsey so I could ask him questions about his work (and possibly to work under his wing).


14


Closer (2004)

I will always consider this a great anti-romantic comedy. I liked the idea of characters lying, cheating, and deceiving each other throughout the entire film. It’s hard to imagine anyone else filling the shoes of Clive Owen, Natalie Portman, Jude Law, and Julia Roberts because each of them contributes something special that makes this picture extremely memorable. I think the title fits the movie because no matter how close the characters get emotionally, they are never successful when it comes to acquiring genuine and complete connection. Each character is strong in their own way, yet weak also. That rings very true to life because we are all damaged creatures, striving to be loved regardless of how we see the world and the people that live in it. This film provides fascinating characters that are highly suitable to in-depth character studies. I think this is one of Mike Nichols’ strongest films because the level of intelligence and emotional resonance are on the same platform.


13


The Deep End (2001)

The thing I love most about this film is its audacity to be atypical. Tilda Swinton is absolutely terrific as the mother who is constantly tested to see how far she will go to protect her son (Jonathan Tucker) and his secrets. Throughout the picture, I felt like I was watching a poker game as I peer over her shoulder, both of us knowing that she has a bad hand, but she keeps calling her opponents’ bets because she invested too much in the round, desperately hoping that the others are simply bluffing. The bleak atmosphere elevated the constantly increasing drama to the point where it almost works as a thriller. I tried not to look Swinton in the eye too much because once I do, I feel like I’m in as much trouble as she is. Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, “The Deep End” was an exemplary exercise in blending the drama and thriller genres.


12


WALL-E (2008)

I’m impressed with WALL-E in so many levels. I think out of all the Pixar films released to date, this is the most atmospheric: from the post-apocalyptic Earth where WALL-E is sent to deal with waste to outer space where WALL-E discovers what he was meant for. The environs reminded me of the ravaged London from “28 Days Later” to the deserted New York City in “I Am Legend.” Despite the eye-candy visuals for children, there were many layers to this film for adults. For instance, there were comments about the way we push our environment to its limits, our neglect for our physical bodies due to recent developments in technology, our eating habits, and our proclivity (whether we are aware or not) toward hiding behind anything that’s available so we wouldn’t have to deal with reality. Although this works as a modern silent film, this also works as a fusion between animation and live-action. Those techniques are uncommon in modern cinema but they are so masterfully sewn into the story to the point where it is genius. “WALL-E,” written and directed by Andrew Stanton, is timeless.


11


Control (2007)

Directed by Anton Corbijn, this film absolutely blew me away. Sam Riley got my attention the moment he appeared on screen and never let go. He played Ian Curtis with such passion and charisma but also highlighted the character flaws and decisions Curtis made in his life. Samantha Morton breaks my heart as Curtis’ wife who really did everything she could to show her love for Curtis. When she finds out that her husband is less than loyal, the way she responded was unpredictable. Like the actors’ performances, this film is very lowkey yet it has an undeniable quiet power that moved me. I thought the decision to show in this film in black and white is absolutely brilliant because it underlines the depression under the beauty that Curtis was going through. Sam Riley really impressed me with his acting: I thought he was the definition of cool when he was walking down the street while wearing a grey coat without a care for the world. Subtle moments like listlessly sitting on a bed really hones in on the apathy of that generation and also the mental breakdown of Curtis.

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 11 2010

    I continue to be impressed with how much work you have put into this list. I don’t agree with all your choices (more on that below), but you make your case passionately and eloquently.

    It felt so good to see ‘Imaginary Heroes’ up there. It was tragically ignored by critics, but it combined as a funny and poignant script with some truly remarkable acting. It’s not quoteable, it’s high relatable as well. Sure, Dan Harris tried to cram to much into his movie, but in the process it became so emotionally raw and engaging that it was totally made up for. I try to rewatch it once year.

    And ‘Elephant’. God, how hard it is to watch. After a while, Gus van Sant’s narrational style starts to suck you in, to a point where you nearly forget that you know what’s ultimately going to happen. It’s short, intense, brutal and perhaps the scariest movie of the decade. It made some critics’ lists, but not nearly enough. While I recognize the achievements of ‘Paranoid Park’ (the van Sant that made it onto the lists of many of those who snubbed ‘Elephant’), I think it was only his third best movie of the 2000′s (behind ‘Elephant’ and ‘Milk’). I guess that’s saying more about how good van Sant is, than it says about ‘Paranoid Park’.

    I have to admit I never quite got ‘WALL-E’. It’s beatiful, conceptually interesting, and funny at times, but I just couldn’t get into its rhythm. The first half was too slow, and the second half (when humans entered the story) it started to look too much like a regular movie. Most people disagree, so I guess I’m the odd one, but I prefer both ‘Ratatouille’ and ‘Up’ to ‘WALL-E’. Taken together though, they represented a welcome return to family-friendly animation (rejecting the increasingly tiresome self-referential approach of ‘Shrek’ (part II and III) and, to a lesser extent, ‘The Incredibles’.

    ‘Kinsey’ and ‘Closer’ were other examples of movies that I generally liked, but that I never considered ‘decade favorite’ material. ‘Kinsey’ has a very interesting topic, and in a way it was surprising that it hadn’t gotten a biopic treatment before, but in the end it felt you a little too traditional too me. They could have done more with such a cultural milestone. Liam Neeson and Laura Linney were both great, however.

    I though I was going to appreciate ‘Closer’ much more than I did, but for some reason most of the relationship failed to move me. I tend to love movies in which people expose the weaknesses and unspoken truths of their relationships, but ‘Closer’ didn’t quite get beyond the professional, but oddly cold engagement of its high-profile stars. I felt almost as alone in my non-commitment to ‘Closer’ as I did when I failed to be awed by the even more universally lauded ‘Children of Men’ three years later.

    Reply
    • Jan 11 2010

      Thank you! But, really, I should be the one thanking you for taking the time to read all this. Honestly, I don’t expect people to. A glance at the titles is enough for me because 1) I’m getting a chance to recommend people the movies that I truly enjoyed (so maybe 1 or 2 will connect with them as well) and 2) It’s just nice to have outlet when it comes to my passion for the movies. In the university, all I see and hear are science, science, science… what a drag!

      I’m glad you had a chance to rewatch IMAGINARY HEROES recently. For me, I don’t really watch it for fun because there are certain scenes that are too painful for me. But when I do watch it, I’m blown away each time. I wish more people would see it.

      The only problem I really had with ELEPHANT was the whole shower scene. I mean, come on, was that really necessary?? It brought certain things to the table that are just distracting. However, I agree with you, it’s one of Van Sant’s best of the decade and best projects ever. It was just so haunting.

      KINSEY’s traditionalism is EXACTLY what I love about it. Even though the whole set-up of it is very “biopic,” I felt like the subject (human sexuality) was not a very traditional topic in biopic features. So that clash felt fresh and I was just engaged from start to finish. Unlike IMAGINARY HEROES and ELEPHANT, KINSEY is the one I can watch over and over and not get tired of it. And it’s surprisingly funny.

      CLOSER. I really thought you would enjoy it more than you did. The way I saw the characters was they were just too afraid to let people in for 3 reasons: their jealousy, their pride, and the walls they put around themselves was more than they could handle. Even though they were very cold on the outside, I did see the pain and their weaknesses bit by bit, notably that bedroom scene between Law and Portman; when Roberts finally told Owen about her affair.

      Reply
  2. Jan 11 2010

    Oh, and again not to seem like a grumpy old man, but I disagree deeply about ‘Kill Bill’. Granted, the second half eventually managed to make Uma Thurman’s character easier to understand, but that was only after I had sat through the unbearable self-indulgent first half. The humor and the physical tricks got tiresome after a while, and to me it failed to make a case for its cartoonish violence, apart from a quintessential Tarantinoesque one: That it looked cool. So cool it left me cold, I say. Once its gear shifted toward expanding the backstory, I was a lost cause. I’ve seen it three times, because people kept insisting there was something I just didn’t get, but now I’ve given it up.

    Reply
    • Jan 11 2010

      I guess we’ll agree to disagree with KILL BILL. I thought it was perfection. The things you hated about it is exactly why I loved every minute of it. I just don’t see a lot of movies being released that are as fun, exciting and referential yet still able to keep track of its vision. Tarantino’s dedication to make movies EXACTLY as he wants to be is why I love his work.

      Reply
      • Jan 12 2010

        I love how uncompromising Tarantino is, too, but with ‘Kill Bill’ (particularly the first part) and also ‘Death Proof’ (though to a lesser extent) I felt he wasn’t making movies as much as re-making movies. Meaning that their self-referentiality (?) became so all-encompassing that it was hard to watch them as much more than pastiches. I’m not sure if that’s a problem for ‘Death Proof’, but it should be for ‘Kill Bill’, considering the ambitions of the second half.

        Reply
  3. Jan 12 2010

    You have put together a great list here. I love everything you said about “Closer” I am such a big fan of that film and find it to be more like real life than any other “romance” film (not that I dont love watching them too though, we can dream its like that).

    I cannot comment on all of your choices, as I have not seen all of those films. Wall-E impressed me too, although I have to admit that I hated Disney with what I thought was going to be the ending.

    Reply
  4. Apr 4 2010

    Great picture for Kill Bill. That looks amazing.

    Also, thank you for putting WallE so high. May be my favourite all-time animated movie.

    Reply

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