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November 25, 2009

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Tom Russell

And Ang Lee did in the last ten years make a great film that brought together arthouse and action, far better, I think, than he did in HULK; that film, of course, was 2000's CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, a sad, wondrous, strange, and beautiful deconstruction/reconstruction of wuxia.

And while we're at it, Zhang's HERO is a sumptuous collection of puzzle-boxes and legends.

The Siren

Wonderfully interesting post, which again reminds me that I really did used to see newer movies pre-kids. Gotta get back into that. An inclusion that particularly warmed my heart: Yi-yi, which has the kind of deep, layered character development one associates with a good long novel.

A big 2nd by the by, to Zach and his applause for the alphabetical structure. And your short comments are delicious. My favorite line in this whole piece, which I intend to quote (with proper credit) the first chance I get: "Never trust a film critic who tells you he or she doesn't care for pictures about 'rich' people."

I prefer Wall*E, an unapologetically romantic, anti-utopian fantasia that Chaplin would have deeply appreciated, to The Incredibles, which I didn't much like. That's the only quibble I'm gonna make. I'm just going to update my Netflix, as soon as I have reliable Internet.

P.S. Zach is also right about Unforgiven. But Glenn is right about Million Dollar Baby. :D

Kevin J. Olson

I like what everyone is offering so far. A few I would add to the conversation that I haven't seen mentioned yet:

Kill Bill
Redbelt
Le Fils
The Weatherman
Spartan
Traffic
Shotgun Stories
Minority Report
Solaris
Auto Focus
In Bruges
Undertow

I'm sure there are hundreds more...but those are a few off the top of my head.

Ilya Yablochnikov

Some others I haven't seen mentioned too much here:

American Psycho
Ghost World (this is maybe my favorite film of the decade)
Lilya 4-Ever
Shaun Of The Dead
The Prestige
The Lives of Others
Frownland
Let The Right One In
Adventureland

bill

Shit...LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Of course.

Karsten

Hi Glenn,

Actually first time commenter, but long time reader - and listing is too much fun to stay in the shadows. Your list is great, particularly because there's so many films I haven't seen. I'm participating in a large poll on the Top 100 of this decade, so I've collected and listed by Top 50, and for the sake of discussion, I'll share it here - eventhough it can't match yours in... distinctiveness.

1. LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY, THE
2. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
3. GEGEN DIE WAND (HEAD-ON)
4. LÅT DEN RÄTTE KOMMA IN (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN)
5. YI YI
6. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
7. LEBEN DER ANDEREN, DAS (THE LIFE OF OTHERS)
8. MULHOLLAND DRIVE
9. THERE WILL BE BLOOD
10 SCAPHANDRE ET LE PAPILLON (DIVING BELL AND BUTTERFLY)
11. LILJA 4-EVER
12. ADAPTATION.
13. VOZVRASHCHENIYE (THE RETURN)
14. WO HU CANG LONG (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON)
15. CACHÉ (HIDDEN)
16. PARANOID PARK
17. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
18. LOST IN TRANSLATION
19. ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, THE
20. FREIE WILLE, DER (THE FREE WILL)
21. REPRISE
22. PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE
23. SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK
24. 25TH HOUR
25. DARK KNIGHT, THE
26. KILL BILL VOL 1. OG 2.
27. RULES OF ATTRACTION, THE
28. OLDBOY
29. PIANISTE, LA (THE PIANO TEACHER)
30. HUNGER
31. FINDING NEMO
32. AMORES PERROS
33. REQUIEM FOR A DREAM
34. INLAND EMPIRE
35. AUF DER ANDEREN SEITE (THE EDGE OF HEAVEN)
36. Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN (...AND YOUR MOTHER TOO)
37. FABELEUX DESTIN D'AMELIE POULIN, LE (AMELIE)
38. FILS, LE (THE SON)
39. ZODIAC
40. MARIE ANTOINETTE
41. HOURS, THE
42. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
43. MOULIN ROUGE!
44. GRIZZLY MAN
45. CONTE DE NOËL, UN (A CHRISTMAS TALE)
46. BEFORE SUNSET
47. ETRE ET AVOIR (TO BE AND TO HAVE)
48. BOURNE ULTIMATUM
49. LYKKENS GRØDE (HARVESTING THE WASTELAND)
50. GLADIATOR

Yep, that's it.

Account Deleted

Great list Glenn. I loved your championing of A.I. in Premiere and it's heartening to see you still feel the same way 8 years on. You're bang on about the last 20 minutes, one of the bleakest in cinema. Time to dig out the DVD...

Account Deleted

@Karsten: Vozvrashcheniye (The Return)- what an incredible piece of filmmaking, Lilja 4-Ever too. Interesting list, thanks for sharing.

Chris

I only discovered this blog sometime in early 2009 and it remains the only film blog I revisit almost daily... and this list verifies why.

An interesting, varied list that includes many of the films that really struck me (Eternal Sunshine, No Country, Huckabees, Grizzly Man, etc) right away, films that I thought were unfairly criticized and ridiculed (AI, the Fountain, etc), things I disagree with (I remain largely alone amongst my filmfan friends in mostly hating David Lynch - and Mullholand Drive was the flick that sealed this opinion for me, altho I do like Straight Story) and things I either haven't seen yet but want to or would never have thought to see in the first place.

In short, it's thought provoking, challenging, and even more often than it might be occasionally snide or have the "predictable film snob" bent, includes some truly heartfelt picks and points.

Glenn, thanks for a great list and a great blog.

otherbill

Great list. I especially like seeing SUMMER HOURS and MARIE AND JULIAN on there. SH is one of the few films I would absolutely compare to Renoir without reservation.

I second the love given to JESSIE JAMES, RATATOUILLE, GEORGE WASHINGTON, THE NEW WORLD, KINGS AND QUEEN, and LORD OF THE RINGS. My appreciation for LOTR may be partly colored by the fact that it came along and gave my fanboy heart a new trilogy to embrace just as Lucas was stoking my rage.

I'd also recommend Philipe Ramos' CAPTAIN AHAB. It hasn't been released in any reasonable way in the states but I was fortunate enough to catch it at a festival and it has stayed with me like few films I've seen of late.

@ Dan- there is a huge cult forming around Lee's HULK. I've found it fascinating to watch even though I pretty much can't stand the film. Short version: I think the panels gimmick totally fails to do anything interesting with comic book grammar and the story stupidly foregrounds all the subtext that works so well in good superhero comics when it's allowed to remain sub. But then my top 70 list for the 00s would probably find slots for MIAMI VICE and DOG SOLDIERS. I will go down swinging on both of those but I'd also admit my opponent was largely correct as he was helping me up. Then I'd offer to buy the first round.

Finally, the print of TROPICAL MALADY that showed up at my local arthouse was sans subtitles. A theater full of people sat in respectful silence and listened to dialogue we couldn't understand for twenty minutes, secure in the knowledge that all would be revealed in time, until a manager noticed the snafu. Reminiscent of the time I caught a print of HENRY FOOL that was framed just poorly enough in the projector to allow a boom mike into one scene. I spent 30 minutes trying to figure out what Hartley was "saying there".

Account Deleted

Kingdom of Heaven Directors Cut is worth a mention too. I couldn't stand the film in the cinema but absolutely adored the longer home video version. Weird.

LondonLee

Master and Commander might be the most ridiculously entertaining film I saw this decade. I really didn't think they knew how to make 'em like that anymore.

Big thumbs up for AI too, for someone who seems to have had a happy childhood Spielberg never shies away from the dark and messy side of family life. But while I know the ending isn't "happy" (everybody's dead!) I still have trouble with it, as was said above I just think it's badly handled, all that ridiculous exposition about cloning. But Spielberg seems to have trouble ending his movies these days (eg: War of The Worlds and Minority Report with their too-neat tying up of plot strings into pretty bows)

Zach

Keepnews - I'll admit, my quip about MYSTIC RIVER was cheap - what can I say, I got carried away in the moment. Still, while deeper than my gloss, I still think it's an inferior work to UNFORGIVEN. And the "Nebraska" line was, y'know, kind of a joke, although I think it stands as a great line than Joe "QUIT RIDIN' ME, MAN!!!" Esterhas ( who cares about sp.) could only dream of writing.

I've heard many a good thing about Candy Mountain, and will be checking it out.

As far as Apichatpong goes - I actually prefer BLISSFULLY YOURS to TROPICAL MALADY, but think that both belong in the top 20 or so, right along with SYNDROMES.

Also for the mix: JUNEBUG - surprised this hasn't come up yet; SEXY BEAST (does 2000 count?) and, for my out-of-left-field choice, Henry Bean's (another excellent screenwriter, btw) NOISE.

That Fuzzy Bastard

I actually sort of agree with Soderbergh that "Che" is the first movie of his in a long time to feel like work-for-hire. It's got plenty of lovely moments, but the film he described in interviews is still more interesting than the film that ended up on the screen.

But I also think that "Full Frontal" is hands-down absolutely the best American movie of the decade, so I may be clinically insane: http://thatfuzzybastard.blogspot.com/2008/12/full-frontal.html (the video essay at the top is probably more entertaining than the text that follows). Like I said in my best-of, it's the movie that makes me feel like Martin Donavan in Surviving Desire: You don't think it's the best movie ever? Then watch it again, and again, until you do.

Gabe Klinger

What's surprising about these lists is that they don't for most part include any shorts or experimental work. Sure, there will be a token mention of Ken Jacobs here and there, but nothing about Lewis Klahr or Peter Tscherkassky or any number of other important people.

Another pet peeve: Jia Zhang-ke appears to stand in for all of China.

I'm sure Mr. Kenny would gladly and openly admit his blindness in certain areas, and defer to those critics with a more vested interest in the avant-garde and national cinemas. But it still seems worth making the distinction that Glenn's list, and the lists of other individuals and groups that are appearing on the web, are best *feature* film lists. One could go even further and say that this is a list of the best commercially released (in the U.S.) feature films. Even Pedro Costa (who's getting a Criterion release) and Philippe Garrel (FRONTIER OF DAWN is handled by IFC) are no exception.

So it's sad that commerce still reigns, and that these lists become a reflection of the market rather than of filmmaking and its larger sensory, political and cultural aspects.

Glenn Kenny

I love Tscherkassky's work, Gabe. But one problem with ranking/assessing experimental work such as his is that it's kind of hard to see. The discussion over at Dave Kehr's site at the moment, jumping off from his review of the new Kino "avant-garde" collection, touches on this concern. For all that, I think you're right, and it might have been nice to make the distinction you mention explicit rather than tacit. I certainly do have my blind spots—what critic doesn't?—but by the same token sometimes the chips will fall where they may. Jia Zhang-Ke's works certainly isn't the only Chinese cinema I've watched over the past ten years, but those films of his that made my list are the ones that made the biggest impression on me. Similarly, sort of, I honestly haven't been crazy about anything Kiarostami has done since "The Wind Will Carry Us." This sort of thing is part of why I termed the list "My Greatest" instead of "The Greatest," although of course there's a larger principle behind that decision too.

lipranzer

A very good list, Glenn, and I'm not just saying that because it includes LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION (won't show up on my list - Jenna Elfman gets nothing to do, which is a bad idea - but a joy to watch, and one that erases all memory of the smarmy SPACE JAM. If only this had been marketed to adults rather than kids) and GOOD MORNING, NIGHT (overshadowed by other political films that year - SYRIANA and MUNICH, both of which I liked a lot - but just as good). Of course, I have some differences - I prefer MYSTIC RIVER to MILLION DOLLAR BABY, though I do like the latter, I'm afraid I simply didn't find BURN AFTER READING funny enough, and I found DEMON LOVER and THE FOUNTAIN more self-indulgent than illuminating - but still a good list.

michaelgsmith

The most fun (and valuable) "best-of" lists to read are the most highly personal and idiosyncratic ones and yours, Glenn, definitely fits that bill. You caused me to add about a dozen more titles to my netflix queue!
I agree with quite a few of your choices (Three Times, Zodiac and In the Mood for Love are my own favorites of the decade) but here are my ten favorites that didn't make your list:

1. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Dominik)
2. Failan (Song)
3. Moolade (Sembene)
4. Ten (Kiarostami)
5. Avalon (Oshii)
6. Time Out (Cantet)
7. Black Book (Verhoeven)
8. Mad Detective (To)
9. Letters from Iwo Jima (Eastwood)
10. JSA: Joint Security Area (Park)

JosephB

A few of mine, and really nothing more than the top 2 films of each year for me personally:

Almost Famous, Requiem For a Dream, The Man Who Wasn't There, Mulholland Drive, Gangs of New York, 25th Hour, Mystic River, All the Real Girls (the first real mumblecore movie), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Oldboy, Memories of Murder, The New World, The Aassassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, There Will Be Blood (god '07 was a stellar year), Rachel Getting Married, Public Enemies.

Fuzzy Bastard

I'm sort of surprised that my Top Ten had so many movies that weren't on other people's, actually. But in the spirit of the comments board:

-Full Frontal (Soderbergh)
-Werckmeister Harmonies (Tarr)
-Mulholland Drive (Lynch)
-The Gleaners and I (Varda)
-A Mighty Wind (Guest)
-Up (Docter)
-The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Jackson)
-Y Tu Mama Tambien (Cuarón)
-The Man Who Wasn't There (Coen)
-A Prarie Home Companion (Altman)

Honorable mentions: Spirited Away, Donne Darko, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Grizzly Man, My Winnipeg, Spider (much more uncompromising than A History of Violence), The Incredibles, Lost In Translation, Waking Life, The Hurt Locker

Gabe Klinger

Of course, it's easier to assess experimental work now as opposed to any other time in history thanks to DVDs and the internet. A savvy critic without the resource to travel to festivals has less and less of an excuse. My problem is with critics who keep shrugging off experimental films -- and even straight narrative films that are culturally coming from a place that makes them difficult to understand -- because they simply don't like them, as if the pursuit of criticism was ever just about staying inside one's safe zone, or that the pursuit of art appreciation was about fast, gut-level arguments like "it's too abstract" or "it's too conceptual".

I'd just like to point out one other thing: it's not only an experimental bias; it's the entire short film world that gets demoted. (The Sight and Sound poll in '02 is the most obvious example of this critical hegemony...)

Shawn Stone

I like the way MILLION DOLLAR BABY just sort of fades away; Eastwood's character is destroyed by losing his "daughter" again, and there just ain't gonna be any redemption for him. It's a 1940s Warner melodrama--with all the associated plot implausibilities--with an unhappy ending. (I'm with Keepnews on THE UNFORGIVEN, I don't get the classic status of it. I like it when Eastwood takes a less expansive approach: THE GAUNTLET or GRAN TORINO, for example, or LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA over FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS.)

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE and 2046 are two of my faves, and very different experiences. IN THE MOOD zips along at 98 minutes, breaking your heart scene by short scene as the characters contain depths of emotion in the face of a smothering social fabric; 2046 drifts along at over 2 hours, as if the characters had all the time in the world (which they don't) with the dreamy sci-fi sequences adding to this drift, before the devastating end. I'd make room for both.

I'd add DOGVILLE, ITALIENSK FOR BEGYNDERE, KILL BILL, LOST IN TRANSLATION, THE GLEANERS AND I, PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE.

Shawn Stone

I'll also put in a boost for A MIGHTY WIND. Aside from being funny as hell and having decent "fake" folk music, it builds to a peak of real emotion--and then pulls the rug out from under that feeling.

Tom Russell

Add FANTASTIC MR. FOX to my list.

NickHangsOutOnSunset

Thank you for the list Glenn and for starting this conversation. Shortening one's DVD queue is the hardest thing in the world.

My decades-best list has maybe 15 films on it but I've seen only about half of yours. My additions: Before Night Falls, Bright Star, Brothers of the Head (for it's best-ever capturing of rock 'n roll ambience), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Ghost World, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, L'Enfant (my favorite Dardennes), The Lives of Others, The Piano Teacher, Secret Things, Shotgun Stories.

Sharply written, well acted, deftly executed, incredibly entertaining movies that weren't quite art for some reason: An Education, Batman Begins, Casino Royale, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, The Devil Wears Prada, Duplicity, High Fidelity, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Ripley's Game.

It was a good decade for: Anne Hathaway, Catherine Keener, Charlie Kaufman, Christian Bale, Cillian Murphy, documentaries, Julian Schnabel, Laura Linney, Matt Damon, Paul Giamatti, South Korea, Tilda Swinton, Tony Gilroy, William Hurt.

It was a bad decade for: Ben Affleck, Kari Wuhrer, Leslie Mann, Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Will Smith, Larry Wachowski.

mike

I hate to be the kind of internet poster that responds negatively to an article, but I'm afraid I have to be that kind of internet poster in response to this.

- The perceived value of a list of ten movies is much higher than a list of 50 or 70. 50 movies is boring. Add another 20 just for the sake of more content and it's like forcing a ninety minute film to run 2 and a half hours.

- Anyone that includes Gran Torino on any kind of top of the year/decade list really hasn't watched Gran Torino, or at least paid attention.

- It does't behoove you to start out an article with "So, you don't wanna talk about Spencer Tracy..." No. I do. I would much rather talk about Spencer Tracy than have to go through this list. Why tease us with a more interesting topic in the first sentence only to juxtapose it with a far less interesting one, a top 70s list of the decade that includes films like Gran Torino.

I'd like a refined list of the top ten films of the decade from you. Also, I'd like an article about Spencer Tracy from you. I also want you to rewatch Gran Torino.

John M

"I'd like a refined list of the top ten films of the decade from you. Also, I'd like an article about Spencer Tracy from you. I also want you to rewatch Gran Torino."

Which should he do first?

And can he have a couple weeks, or do you need it now?

PGamble

We're compiling a similiar list on our site. One contributor has already put up his list, but we're also after everyones else opinions.

we have a poll if anyone wants to vote for there's

or leave a comment. Any help you'd be appreciated

Claire K.

Are you making the other kids redo their lists, Mike, or just Glenn?

bill

Mike, you know, you could read the Spencer Tracy article that's just a couple posts down, if you wanted. I know it's a few days old at this point, but maybe it'll tide you over.

And anyone who talks about GRAN TORINO the way you've been doing needs to watch it again. Or is just a plain ol' jackass.

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