The Best of the Rest: Honorable Mentions for the 2000’s
For every beginning, there must be an end. Sadly, our joint venture has come to its waning days, but the experience has been invigorating and therapeutic. So we have a decade nearly in the books, ten personal favorites revealed, and plenty of great Cinema to spare.
As previously stated in the Prologue, a rash of other masterful films deserve mention as best of the 2000’s, and I’d like to consider each in short bursts. I’ve ranked them 11-20 but in truth, they are interchangeable on any given day. To be followed by my Top 10 performances of the decade.
11. Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002) – The best screenplay of the decade only gets better with each viewing, and the Jonze/Kauffman collaboration delves deep into the guilt festering behind sibling rivalry and miscommunication. Cage’s landmark dual performance dissects two very different ideologies, then shows their inherent need to connect and desire to co-exist. Streep and Cooper also brilliantly inhabit lost souls yearning for a connection.
12. The World (Jia Zhang-ke, 2004) – Possibly the most important filmmaker to truly emerge this decade, Jia examines the deeply layered relationships of a country in permanent transition. For me, this is his finest achievement, a film of striking artificial tableauxs seemingly bursting with life.
13. Elephant (Gus van Sant, 2003) – The most devastating personal cinematic experience of the past ten years. Van Sant’s film captures my own worst nightmare with vivid detail and consequence, all through a horrifically lyrical approach. The fractured narrative reveals the gradual destruction of safety in the one place it should exist the most.
14. Cafe Lumiere (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2005) – Possibly the most important filmmaker of the past two decades, and this poetic ode to Ozu remains my favorite of his films. Visually stoic, audibly intoxicating, and emotionally riveting. Hou does with trains what others wish they could do with actors.
15. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2000) – This decade’s most heartbreaking film about the conflict between family/identity and individualism. Throughout each nuanced and deeply dark character interaction, possibility of purpose overrides angst, leading Royal and Co. to a sublime collective redemption. Also a stunning examination of cinematic color like no other recent film.
16. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006) – Flat out technically brilliant, Cuaron’s vision has a heart-pounding tenacity of purpose and concise will to entertain/provoke. Clive Owen churns old school grit into a dedicated, wrenching examination of sacrifice in the face of human extinction. Hollywood doesn’t get any better than this.
17. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2009) – Pure cinema, where layers of complexity feed interior conflicts and define exterior weaknesses. Martel uses shifting audible intensities and visual textures to define what makes the medium so fascinating. Best sound design of the decade.
18. Spartan (David Mamet, 2004) – Mamet creates a world of cold professionalism out of sparse dialogue and cunning movement, then constructs the greatest attack on Bush-era foreign policy ever put to film. Kilmer’s controlled chaos slices through the political corruption and deceit, unhinging the apathetic status quo in the process. Will only get more pertinent in the years to come.
19. Happy Feet (George Miller, 2006) – Dance/song as global protest. The great musical of our time also happens to have a deeply affecting environmental agenda. For whatever reason critics overlook(ed) Miller’s dynamic attention to movement and space, and they’re worse off for it. I suspect in a few decades the critical community will finally recognize Miller’s achievement as one of THE important movies of our time.
20. Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002) – Most prefer the visual audacity and epic cinematic scale of PTA’s There Will Be Blood, but to me this is a far superior achievement. Punch keeps its hypnotic style directly connected with character’s twisting moods, fluctuating color, music, and violence through an unforgettable kaleidoscope of male angst. Best final shot oft he decade.
And if I had to list ten more (hell some critics are unleashing their top 100) – All the Real Girls, O’ Brother Where Art Thou?, In the City of Sylvia, Stevie, Miami Vice, Almost Famous, Memories of Murder, Ghost World, The School of Rock, and The White Diamond.
The Ten Best Performances of the Decade (in no particular order)
Nicolas Cage, Adaptation
Naomi Watts, Muholland Dr.
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Viggo Mortensen, A History of Violence
Luisa Williams, Day Night Day Night
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2
Gene Hackman, The Royal Tenenbaums
Nicole Kidman, Dogville
– I’d like to graciously thank Henry (The Filmist) for participating in this epic project with me. It always takes two to tango. For his great Epilogue, click here.