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November 25, 2009


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A really nice list Glenn, though I feel I must give shout out to the delightful The Band's Visit, the epic The Best of Youth and the poetic Werckmeister Harmonies, all on my personal top 10 for the Decade.

Not to discount the eternal struggles of filmmakers to get quality on the screen, but I think your list (and other decade lists out there) prove that we DO live in an exciting time to be a lover of cinema, contrary to what many say.

Tom Russell

A truly impressive list of truly impressive films. Some of the films others have maligned I'll second you on-- The Aviator and Gangs of New York are both terrific in my estimation, as is Marie Antoinette, while Inglourious Basterds is really the best film I've seen in a long long time-- and some left me cold but I'm going to give a second look on the strength of your endorsement-- A.I., The Fountain, The 25th Hour, Sideways.

Of those not on your list, my own would include Brad Bird's Ratatouille (of course), Spielberg's Munich (a return to form, I think, after too many sappy films), Wes Anderson's Darjeeling Limited and Life Aquatic (sadder, funnier, and more accomplished films, I think, than Royal Tennenbaums), Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (because that's just the kind of fanboy I am) and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 (humour, sentiment, characterization, style, drama: classic Spider-Man for modern times), Andrew Bujalski's Mutual Appreciation (it's a film that rewards multiple viewings), Woody Allen's Hollywood Ending (well, *I* think it's funny and sharp, and its longuers really let you soak in the characters)...

...and Tom and Mary Russell's Son of a Seahorse. Yes, Tom and Mary Russell's Son of a Seahorse-- what of it? :-)


You had me up until LOONEY TUNES BACK IN ACTION. I mean... seriously?

Glenn Kenny

Yeah, seriously. You'd prefer maybe "The 40-Year-Old Virgin?" I note also that Manny Farber saw fit to include a Charlie Dog Looney Tune in his roundup of the best films of 1951.

One of the reasons one does these lists is to be reminded of the great stuff he's left out. "Munich," "Werckmeister," heck yeah. "The Band's Visit" is indeed estimable. More, more...

Matt Miller

I also owe AI another viewing. And, Glenn, I have to confess, I half-hoped to see Speed Racer on your list.

Tom Russell

Don't you just hate it when you think of something else five minutes after posting a comment?

-- David O. Russell's I Heart Huckabees. Mercilessly funny, with wit and invention to spare.

-- Josh Bernhard's The Lionshare. A slender and rewarding gem of a 65-minute independent film, available for free online. In my review, I compared it to Forman's The Fireman's Ball, and I was not being facetious or cheeky.

-- Cronenberg's Eastern Promises. I really like that bathhouse fight scene especially. I've seen it enough times, what with Mrs. Russell rewatching it on an endless loop for hours on end.

-- Jeunet's Amelie. An effortlessly entertaining bauble, and proof that baubles are worth making.

-- P.T. Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love. A great romantic comedy that says even screwed-up people can find someone. See also: Secretary, Birthday Girl.

-- Yes, Birthday Girl. Actually a really great film.

-- Into Great Silence. Probably my favourite film of all, now that I think about it; it is an experience wholly unlike any other. My only regret is that I saw it on DVD and not projected. If you have a chance to see it in either form, then do so without hesitation.

(And I do want to stress that my list is just the films I didn't see on Glenn's; I don't see the need to simply parrot a huge chunk of his list, and this also allows me to paper over all the foreign language films I haven't gotten around to seeing yet.)


Okay, so, I've seen...some of these. I love that BURN AFTER READING is on there. The people who hate that film baffle me. Never crumble, Glenn!

I haven't seen SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY -- well, I watched some of it, but my attention span was failing me, I'd had it too long, so I mailed it back to Netflix -- but I did see TROPICAL MALADY, and I'm a bit surprised to see it left off your list. I thought it was stunning, and talk about specifically poetic. The last half hour (or so) is unlike anything else I've ever seen. Part of me feels like any attempt on my part to talk up the genre roots, or turn-towards-genre, of that last bit would be to horrible reduce what Weerasethakul pulls off there, but even so: the genre hound in me loved the pure otherworldly horror (yeah, you heard me!) poetry of that film.

Regarding MILLION DOLLAR BABY -- Look, you know I love Clint, and I'll back you up on GRAN TORINO any day of the week (CHANGELING, too), but at some point complaining about the "the Plausibles" only goes so far. At a cerain point, some films do cross a line beyond which, plot-wise, you can't buy what they're selling, and I don't think that those who take issue with MILLION DOLLAR BABY, moving as it is (and it is), are off-base. The film crumbles as a story, much as I wish it didn't.

For the record, I'm with you on NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, ZODIAC, THE DARJEELING LIMITED, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (and I would add THE LIFE AQUATIC), A SERIOUS MAN, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (the best of the lot, quite possibly...I don't know), SIDEWAYS, AI, GANGS OF NEW YORK, TROUBLE EVERY DAY (possibly - I don't know the film as well as you do), GRIZZLY MAN, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, and THE INCREDIBLES.

I would add GOSFORD PARK (your hatred for that movie truly baffles me) and A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION, PUNCH DRUNK LOVE, KILL BILL, MUNICH, WAR OF THE WORLDS (for the parts that work, anyway -- which for me is most of it), SPIDER (I think...need to watch it again), SPARTAN, A MIGHTY WIND, TEAM AMERICA, PAN'S LABYRINTH, THE WRESTLER, UNITED 93, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, MASTER AND COMMANDER, LORD OF THE RINGS (throw them all in, though I really mean the first one), DOGVILLE, THE MIST, GONE BABY GONE, BUG (maybe), BROKEN FLOWERS, maybe GOMORRAH, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, maybe THE DESCENT...

Clearly, my grasp of contemporary foreign cinema is not at all what it should be. I'm working my way back to front in that regard, though I do own a copy of the Dardennes' THE CHILD, which I plan on watching over the holiday. So that's one...



Tom Russell

Oh, and Shyamalan's Signs, and Whoever-That-Guy-Is's Freddy vs. Jason, and Leigh's Vera Drake, and Altman's The Company.

I *think* I'm done for a while.

Keith Uhlich

Hell yes "Looney Tunes: Back in Action." I'll stand in front of a packed, hostile house defending that film frame-for-frame until Doomsday takes us. Glad you love it too, Glenn. I'd forgotten you did.


Thanks for the compelling list, Glenn. I commend your choice of alphabetical ranking over qualitative ranking - the numeric, for lists like this, always invites way more inane quibbling than even cinema obsessives should indulge in. Also, some very nice encapsulations - I think your description of Syndromes and Century (also one of my faves) is the pithiest and most precise that I've seen. More than anything, though, the list is further encouragement/insistence to see some of the films and directors that I've been putting off, like Garrel.

Now that we've passed the salad course, on to the beef: I don't get, won't get, your (and the legion of others) preference for recent Eastwood. As far as I care, he should have hung it up after Unforgiven, an indisputable masterpiece that he will never come close to matching, no matter how many heartstrings he yanks from now till he turns 135.

Somehow I missed out on the TWBB debates, which film will go down in my book as Most Frustrating of the Decade. As a true-blue Anderson fan, I was sorely disappointed, and damn it, and I will still rip off that scab and go toe to toe with anyone who thinks it's great! Please - take off the blinders and wake up to the fact that Punch Drunk Love beats it by a country mile.

And, finally - no Assassination of JJ by etc, etc.??? Are you taking Crazy Pills? I half-jest, though - I know this one is still controversial, which is just how I like it - which doesn't change the fact that it's the best American film of the decade, hands down, go home, over and out.

Oh, and to end on a high note: incisive, again, and right as rain, for comparing Sideways to Renoir.

Eric Stanton

Thanks for this list - some great rental ideas.

I'm going to agree with Robert about "Werckmeister Harmonies" - the first (and still the only) Bela Tarr I've seen. Not like any other movie I know of - no doubt a function of the limits of my viewing experience, but no movie made in this decade affected me so profoundly as "Werckmeister." I have yet to take the plunge on "Satantango." I have the impression you are a Tarr man, Glenn. Was the omission of "Werckmeister" an oversight or deliberate? If the latter, I would be highly interested to read whatever reservations you have about the film, should you ever have occasion to address the subject.

I loved "A Christmas Tale," and loved "Kings and Queen" as well - another interesting omission on your list.

If I was compiling a list like this, I'd probably try to find room for Rivette's "Va Savior" and Rohmer's wry "Triple Agent." And Haneke's "Cache" as well.

I'm encouraged by your inclusion of "Invictus" - I was thinking the trailer was maybe not so hot, so your hint is really welcome.

Tom Russell

Oh, Pan's Labyrinth and Dogville! Thanks, Bill! I'd also back you up on Gosford Park. (Also: Dancer in the Dark. That and Dogville are the only two Von Trier I can stand.)

I also tried to get through Syndromes and found that I could not, despite my best efforts. And since it was so heartedly recommended by some of my twitter posse, I was extremely disheartened. Another film that I might give a second chance due to your esteem, Glenn.

Glenn Kenny

"Spider"!!!! Yes!!!! "Assassination of JJ"!!!! Yes!!!!

I may have to post an addendum.

Matt Miller

A few that would make my top 70 that haven't been mentioned: BRICK, WAKING LIFE, and ANCHORMAN (which comes as close to capturing the anarchic Marx Brothers spirit as any movie of the last 30 years).


Oh, and THE NEW WORLD. Hello.

Also - as good as THREE TIMES is, FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON is better.

Tom Russell

Seconding Bill on Master and Commander. Also: Cinderella Man. Oh, and don't forget Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers (Letters From Iwo Jima left me pretty darn cold). And... jeez, once you get going on this, it's really hard to stop, and so I better. It is, indeed, a great time to be a cinephile.


Tom, I can't stand DANCER IN THE DARK. I liked ANTICHRIST, though! But yes, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, too...


I'm removing that "maybe" from in front of GOMORRAH. I don't know what that was doing there to begin with. It's a great film.

Tom Russell

Oh, and Bamboozled. Masterpiece.

Tom Russell

And I see how my juxtaposition of "back you up on Gosford Park" and "(Also: Dancer in the Dark)" left something to be desired. I should have tied my Dancer remark to the Dogville part of the sentence instead of waiting until after Gosford. My apologies for any confusion.

Daniel L.

Thank you thank you thank you for recognizing Yi Yi, which is easily my top film of the new century. It's too bad more of Yang's work isn't available on DVD.

Eric Stanton

@ Daniel: Yi Yi is a great movie. Rumor has it that Criterion is bringing out A Brighter Summer Day - possibly in 2010.


This is it for now:

24 PARTY PEOPLE (except that goddamn "Che Geuvara" line really sticks in my craw, but that's me)
TRISTRAM SHANDY (not sure about the ending, but getting there was great)
THE PRESTIGE (probably the blackest, most unnerving, and most deeply intriguing big summer movie of the whole decade)

I'm also tempted to add BIRTH, but I REALLY need to see that one again.


Love the list, Glenn. I'm with you on a ton of these, most notably (and recently) "The GoodTimesKid". Holy shit. What a film. I watched it based on your recommendation way back, so thanks! Huge call on "Goodbye, Dragon Inn", too.

But seriously, I can't believe you left all those classic Swanberg movies off the list....(obvs JK, though I might legitimately consider "Mutual Appreciation"...).

Other thoughts:

-No love for Reichardt? "Old Joy" and "Wendy & Lucy" were damn good, no?

-"Elephant" was mentioned above, but I think GVS might deserve something in there, specifically "Paranoid Park" if only for the Chris Doyle shit going on.

-What about "24 Hour Party People"? Or is it too much Brits/not enough Pere Ubu for you?

-Any love for the recent Romanians? I found "Death of Mr. Lazerescu" and "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days" particularly good.

-"Werkmeister Harmonies" broke my heart, and that's not just b/c Tarr broke down crying before the screening I went to in Chicago. Unbelievable.

There's probably a million others. But yeah, great work. Look forward to seeing the many I've yet to see.

Tom Russell

Neil Burger's The Illusionist, a truly great and romantic film, exploding with beauty and mystery. I especially love Paul Giamatti's look at the film's conclusion; compare with the similar scene in The Usual Suspects and you can see how much more fun it is to be joyful than cynical.

James Keepnews

Wow -- it's surprising to realize how many great films were released this century. Right now I'm just besotted by the titles so many of you mention, I'll wait to add some of my own when the fever's down. Then again...

* George Washington, anyone? It is largely an over-staurated digi-remake of Killer of Sheep, but still felt mighty distinctive at the time it came out.

* Two of which made it onto the TONY list, but no love for nothing outta Romania, consistently (for three or so years there, I guess...) releasing some of the best cinema in the world with Four Months &c., Death of Mr. L., 12:08 East of Bucharest? Nyet, nyet, y nyet, Glennya?

* Y Tu Mama Tambien -- its late-capitalist (hi, Bill!) focused narration transcends the ready potential for the film degenerating into the arthouse Losin' It in Mexico condition it could easily have teetered into. It's stayed with me these many years and not exclusively for the torch I will carry eternally for Maribel Verdú.

* 2046 -- I saw In the Mood for Love just prior to getting a root canal and agonizingly pain is not the condition under which I'd recommend seeing any Wong Kar Wai film. That said, I far prefer this stranger, more oblique, more melancholy sorta-sequel, and not exclusively for the torch I will carry eternally for Zhang Ziyi. Or Li Gong. Or Cheung Maggie.

* Half-Nelson -- was just thinking about this film yesterday. Rack it up as a two-fer with The Believer (the most Sam Fuller-esque film made since the mighty Amerindie auteur's death) as a reminder of the hopes we had/may still have for the considerable promise of Ryan Gosling as an actor, delivered on at least twice in these uncomfortably memorable films.

* Frozen River -- maybe the least of my list, and the most conventional, but brilliantly performed (see above in re: non-exclusive in re: torch in re: Melissa Leo) and ever-so timely in its socio-economic agon during Depression 2.0.

Lastly, Mystic River -- overrated performances (esp. Tim and Sean and not at all including the absurdly underrated Kevin Bacon) but whose indelibly dark-toned narrative and cinematographic palette lingers long in the memory. In this wise, let me note how much I actually dig late Eastwood as well, and here a good bit more than Unforgiven, easily Clint's most overrated film, and whose status as a masterpiece I will happily dispute, Zach. Or not... :}


Werckmeister or no Werckmeister, a fine list. Seen exactly 40 of the 70. I would've probably gone with Oldboy over Lady Vengeance, but that might just be because the former has the distinction of rocking my adolescent world when my film-love was still in a larval stage rather than because it's actually a better movie. I think Kings and Queen, 2046, INLAND EMPIRE, and Kill Bill are about as great as A Christmas Tale, In The Mood For Love, Mulholland Drive, and Inglourious Basterds. Agreed w/Tom re: Mutual Appreciation. And I don't know if it qualifies as it hasn't gotten a US release yet, but I know that Love Exposure is going on my eventual list. I'm only being slightly hyperbolic when I say that it might be the real-world equivalent of the lethally entertaining movie from Infinite Jest.

Sonny Bunch

No Memento? Actually, no Christopher Nolan of any kind? Not sure how I feel about that...


I do not like HALF NELSON at all...hi, James!

Also, Chabrol's FLOWER OF EVIL. I feel like, at this point, I'm just mentioning every film from the last decade that I liked, but if I were to construct my own, well-considered list, other films I've listed here would be cut before FLOWER OF EVIL.

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