So, you don't wanna talk about Spencer Tracy or James Brown? Okay, fine, be that way. I see now that the crew over at Time Out New York has posted its Top 50 Movies of the Aughts, so now's the time, as Charlie Parker would put it, when I might as well counter with my own list, and create what some call "added value" by citing 20 more than 50, because why the hell not.
I will try to be more aphoristic and less portentous than the TONY crew in my film assessment. I don't mean that as a slam against the TONY crew's summings-up. Believe me, I know what a drag it can be to write those 50-to-120 word capsules, particularly if you're trying to get across why the films "mattered" or were "important." It was, quite frankly, really tiresome to have to strike those poses back in the Premiere days. Now that I'm my own boss, my own capsules will be...well, whatever they will be. Another liberty I take is in not ranking—who am I tallying up ballots against, anyway?—but rather listing the films in possibly imperfect alphabetical order. Shine sweet freedom, etc...
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001): A heartbreakingly fractured fairy tale. If you think its final 20 minutes constitute a happy ending, watch, and think, again.
Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002): The Charlie Kaufman-scripted upending of Hollywood convention isn't quite the coup-de-grace it's meant to be, but it still delivers a potent viral load of satirical venom.
The Aviator (Martin Scorsese, 2004): The maestro's sweeping Hughes biography is a much-misunderstood study in obsession, and how failure never stops haunting success. The color manipulation is brilliant too.
Burn After Reading (The Coen Brothers, 2008): A really superb live-action cartoon. Reviewed here.
A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin, 2008, pictured): A superbly multi-faceted film that genuinely suggests where cinema can, and should, go in the next century.
The Circle (Jafar Panahi, 2000): Women's oppression in Iran. A beautiful new manifestation of the neo-realist ethos.
Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa, 2006): It took me a while to come around to this extraordinary film...and I'm glad I did. I walked out on it first...now I feel I could watch it three times a year, at least. The first key to appreciating it is to stop seeing Costa as some sort of, shall we say, "liberal." It's deeper, way deeper, than that...
The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, 2007): Well, yes, it is about the plaints of white people who are visiting India. And your point is? My initial thoughts here.
Demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002, pictured): A perhaps alarmist portrait of capital in the cyber age. But a swift, effective kick in the balls in any event.
Éloge de l’amour (Jean-Luc Godard, 2001): Profoundly problematic Godard, yes. And no less great for that.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004): Another magnificent Kaufman script given preternaturally empathetic life by director Gondry.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009): Reviewed here.
Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat, 2001, pictured): An appropriately twisted vision about the catastrophe of erotic awakening.
The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006): "We rented that, and we saw they quoted you on the box cover," some friend of a friend told me at dinner recently, "and you said it was 'fascinating and amazing.' I'm amazed the stupid thing ever even got made!" I get this a lot. And still insist. Review here.
The Frontier of Dawn (Philippe Garrel, 2008): His ghost story, with effects straight out of Melies/Franju. An incomparable atmosphere.
Gangs of New York (Scorsese, 2002): Decidedly imperfect, with moments of epic greatness that is dares subsequent films to come near.
The Girlfriend Experience (Soderbergh, 2009): Yeah, The Girlfriend Experience. What about it?
Goodbye Dragon Inn (Tsai Ming-liang, 2003): I love all of this director's films, but really, this is his most haunted and haunting experience, a must-see for everyone.
The GoodTimes Kid (Azazel Jacobs, 2005): Another particularly sui generis thing, this from a genuinely adventurous American independent. Crazy, anguished, visually controlled and deft.
Good Morning, Night (Marco Bellocchio, 2003, pictured): A painfully nuanced film about the Red Army and Moro, from a politically and emotionally engaged director who's been in there pitching since well before the event depicted.
Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood, 2008): Reviewed here.
Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005): Reviewed here.
The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008) Reconsidered here.
A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2006): One of Cronenberg's slyest not-quite-pastiches. FULL of unnerving acting.
I Heart Huckabees (David O. Russell, 2004): Improbably enough, my original review is still preserved here.
I’m Not There (Todd Haynes, 2007): I didn't entirely get this picture at first. And then, I got it much better. It's that kind of movie. I've seen it three times. Gets more interesting.
The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004): Is The Incredibles.
L’Intrus (Claire Denis, 2004): One of the great Denis' most daring and transportive (in more ways than one) films.
Invictus (Clint Eastwood, 2009): I can't really talk about it yet, but yes, I think it's that good.
In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2001): An apotheosis. Reviewed here.
The Lady and the Duke (Eric Rohmer, 2001, pictured): Rohmer's experiment with digitally-created backdrops adds a daringly beautiful dimension to his mise-en-scene. The writing and acting are unusually sensitive.
The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, 2009): Too hip? Gotta go? Not by my lights. 100% beguiling.
Looney Tunes Back In Action (Joe Dante, 2003): A meta-movie that really knows its business. Reviewed here.
Lorna’s Silence (The Dardenne Brothers, 2008): A lot of critics thought this was more, and less, of the same from the filmmaking team, but its concentration, and discovery of the iconic Arta Dobroshi, make it my favorite Dardennes. First considered by me here. And again here.
Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006): A splendid cinematic intoxicant, and not stupid. Reviewed here.
Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood, 2004): A lot of people still enjoy trashing this picture, and truth to tell, a lot of its imperfections are legitimate chum for the breed of moviegoer Hitchcock called "the Plausibles." And for all that it still wrenches your gut when you actually watch it. Reviewed here.
Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2002): A truly visionary work from a truly visionary director...who hasn't made a feature since. What the hell is wrong with the world? Reviewed here.
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001): Ah, I'll never forget David Lynch at Premiere's party at Prego in Toronto, chomping on a Sicilian slice with Watts and Harring flanking him, and booming across the floor, "Thanks for the four-star review, Glenn! Great pizza!" From said review: "Roberto Rossellini once remarked of Chaplin's A King in New York, 'It is the film of a free man.' Mulholland Drive is the film of a slave — a slave to his own, undying obsessions. But that's not necessarily a bad thing."
Ne touchez pas le hache (Jacques Rivette, 2007): I prefer the evocative French title to the plainer The Duchess of Langeaise. A wonder, first reviewed here.
Night and Day (Hong Sang-soo, 2008): For my money the Korean director's funniest, most audacious work. Reviewed here.
Notre Musique (Jean-Luc Godard, pictured): War and provisional peace, enraged and enigmatic.
No Country For Old Men (The Coen Brothers, 2007): A lot of folks are already pissed that this was entirely snubbed by the Time Out New York panel. As in, didn't get a single vote. I reserve comment on the matter. I have written about the film here and here.
Ponyo (Hayao Miyazaki, 2009): Simplicity and wonder. Considered here.
Red Cliff Parts 1 & 2 (John Woo, 2008): Epic moviemaking like you thought they didn't/couldn't do anymore. Considered here.
Regular Lovers (Philippe Garrel, 2005): You say you wanna revolution...Garrel's uncanny evocation of May '68 melds the political with the personal until the political becomes...something else.
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001): Anderson really let fly with his baroque side here, to dazzling and heartbreaking result.
Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002): This one-take wonder is more than an amazing technical achievement, and more than an arty promo for The Hermitage. It's a restless treatise on art and intimations of immortality.
A Serious Man (The Coen Brothers, 2009): Reviewed here. Sorry about the critic-baiting therein, but what am I gonna do, pretend it never happened?
Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004): You don't have to be an alcoholic to love this picture...but it helps! But seriously. I compared it to Renoir when it first came out and I stand by that.
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001): One of the master's most complex, enigmatic, and haunting works.
Star Spangled To Death (Ken Jacobs, 1957-2004): Jacobs' epic assembly, a jitter-and-laughter inducing anti-ode to the notion of American exceptionalism. Just because you're paranoid, etc. etc...
Still Life (Jia Zhangke, 2008): The most visually spectacular and mesmerizing work from the Chinese maverick yet.
The Story of Marie and Julian (Jacques Rivette, 2003): In a weird way, I feel as if I am somehow always writing about this film. See here. I consider it in an upcoming Salon mini-feature also.
Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, 2008): Never trust a film critic who tells you he or she doesn't care for pictures about "rich" people.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Park Chan-wook, 2005): Weirder and less on-the-nose than Oldboy. I didn't review, but I got into this online fracas about it, one of the most memorable in the genre.
Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2008): Beautiful, droll, difficult to summarize, one of the most specifically poetic films ever made.
Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002): A peak moment, a summation and an expansion of everything the filmmaker has stood for.
Three Times (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2005): A remarkably delicate, ages-spanning anthology film. Every shot a beauty.
Tokyo Sonata (Kiroshi Kurosawa, 2008):A beautifully calibrated vision of dread. Reviewed here.
Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001): A sui generis splatter/art film. Harrowing, merciless, strangely tender.
25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002, pictured): A beautiful sprawl.
Up (Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, 2009): Reviewed here.
The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009): Funny; I'm still kind of on the fence about the content of this picture, but I'm so impressed by its formal excellence in every respect that it dogs me, and strikes me as a genuinely major work.
The World (Jia Zhangke, 2004): Life as a theme park. Not as funny as it sounds. But wonderful
Yi yi (Edward Yang, 2000): The Taiwanese pioneer's last film, alas, a snappy, beautifully detailed family saga, each scene as vivid and true as the last or the next.
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007): Head-spinningly masterful, a redefinition of the policier, an obsessive film worth obsessing over. See here.
And there you have it. You?