– The Best of the Decade Project is an ongoing discussion between Match Cuts and The Filmist concerning the finest films of the last ten years.
A Temporal Introduction
Time is precious amidst the darkness of a movie theater, one moving image after another flickering past, hoping to captivate, wishing to crawl into your consciousness and find a permanent home. In this sense, Cinema functions as a living, breathing, screaming organism, its survival dependent on time and impact, a medium tailor made for us to contemplate and debate. It’s a shame so many devalue the time they have, denying discussion rather than inspiring it.
But every once in a while a film leaves an indelible impression one cannot shake. Time, both physical and cinematic, seems to slow down to a glorious pace. These works change you, open your eyes to new worlds, possibilities, ideas, and emotions. I remain captive to these singular memories of the Cinema, those crucial signposts in my life as film writer. It’s the clearest timeline I have for understanding the shifts in my own point of view, and the best approach to considering the top films of the past ten years, a grave endeavor in it’s own right. But first…
A Short Flashback
Born into the 1980’s, I was simultaneously frightened and astonished by the shear dynamics of Cinema. Adventures like Raiders of the Lost Arc and Willow blasted open the possibilities of the visual set piece. Die Hard made Christmas dangerous and exciting (it still does), celebrating the Holidays through a broken window of machine guns and terrorists. Adventures in Babysitting introduced me to the pure charm of Cinema, ruminations I would later find in Hawks and Lubitsch. These early films, however flawed they now seem, were deeply personal. They still feel like old friends.
The 1990’s brought aggressive announcements of shock and awe and for the first time movies I could claim as my own. Kinetic bullet ballets merged with postmodern irony becoming just one of the many tracks of some grand cinematic shuffle. John Woo and Quentin Tarantino became kindred spirits. The American Independents set up permanent shop in my consciousness – the Coens, Sayles, Lee, and Jarmusch dissected homegrown stories of race, historiography, trauma, community, and genre. The possibilities of the Cinema expanded, morphed, and overlapped. High school gave way to college and the colossal iceberg of American Cinema I felt I knew so well turned out to be merely the tip of an infinite well of National cinemas and global movements. I officially became a…
A Cinephile Under the Influence
The 2000’s were crucial to me, both as a writer and teacher. It’s a decade that showed me loving film is to love the endless, enigmatic journey the medium presents, reveling in the never-ending process of discovery and discourse. But looking back is also a recognition there are gaps, misunderstandings, and question marks, films and ideas lurking just out of reach. This frustration proves my list will be far from concrete.
Like any other decade, the last ten years provided a plethora of topics regarding production, marketing, and distribution. The DVD format opened a Pandora’s box for movie lovers as forgotten films and filmmakers were brought to the forefront. Digital filmmaking has been a both a blessing and a curse, a revelatory opening for amateur filmmakers and a deadening of classical professionalism, all while slowly pushing film stock and DV closer together. The advent of online criticism has sprung forth gems and weeds, substance and schlock, the good, the bad, and the absolutely unforgivable. All deathly important to the issue of time.
These trends make the 2000’s some kind of special, maybe not as iconic as the 1970’s, or 1940’s, but innovative and life-changing nonetheless. It’s a decade where virtuosity clashed with patience, special effects covered plot holes, and one-dimensional characters often posed as icons. Hollywood relished its franchises and random foreign cinemas blossomed each year. Film festivals became launching pads for mainstream entertainment and critical agendas alike, while historical remembrance keyed the emergence of Naruse and gave Fuller and Peckinpah their due. Criterion became a Church of endless hope. So much material and context, but subtext seemed out of style, except for…
A Select Few
The best films of the last ten years celebrate the mystery inherent to the Cinema, the beautiful ambiguities of its storytelling, and the excitement of discovery I so often seek. They deconstruct time, space, and sound while telling tales of great weight and pertinence. But in each, there’s an ode to the Classic, a consciousness of what came before. They are often incomplete, obscure, and challenging, ultimately indispensable when discussing the ebbs and flows of modern Cinema. In short, they evolve, they haunt, and thankfully, they stay relevant.
Narrowing down a list of this quality is always problematic and futile, but our goal is to revisit these masterworks and examine why they stand the test of time. The template for this project will be as follows – The Filmist and Match Cuts have constructed a list of our ten best films of the 2000’s. We will begin at #10, posting separate entries on choices each week, then engaging in a scheduled online discussion regarding both of our picks. We want this to be an active discourse between film lovers and friends. Comments by readers are welcomed and encouraged.
And for every film I include, there is another standing ready. Calling them “Honorable Mentions” seems like such a disservice , lacking in tone and respect. But more to come with them in the EPILOGUE segment in December.
– We’ll post our # 10 entires next Friday, Oct. 9, with a transcribed version of our discussion to follow.