Saturday, January 09, 2010

2000-2009 : A shout-out to my favorite movies. Part 1

It is pretty obvious that making a top-10 list for a whole decade is about an order of magnitude more difficult than doing it for a year. There are so many great movies that it hurts to leave some of them out, more than it feels good to acknowledge the best ones. There is, of course, no question of ranking among those that, for whatever reason, make the cut to the top list.
Any 'favorites' list is always highly time dependent anyway. If you ask me to make a list today, it will very likely look at least somewhat different than the same list made on any other day. Usually the difference lies near the bottom of the lists while the top is pretty robust. The problem with a decade-spanning list is that 20-30 movies probably deserve to be part of the robust top-list! That didn't stop me from going ahead and chopping the list at 10, anyway!
So, what I'll do today is to list those 10 movies that got chopped away just because I chose to stop the top list at 10. Every single one of these movies would probably have figured in one of those alternative top-1o lists that would've resulted had I chosen some other day to do the chopping.

The Just-Missed-The-Top-10 List (in alphabetical order)

2046: It doesn't look (or sound) nearly half as good on TV as it did on the big screen. But the impact of that one screening still lingers. When I see some of the most beautiful scenes of this movie on DVD, my mind instantly gets transported to that first viewing! Add in the little cameo by the brilliant Gong Li, and the coquettish turn by Zhang Ziyi, and the movie becomes all but irresistible for me. Such a beautiful, beautiful film!

Atonement: Another movie that had me completely due to its beautifully shot frames and wonderful soundtrack. The way the screenplay plays around with time and narration makes you enjoy the movie every time you see it. Does the book do that too? Saoirse Ronan is the standout in a great ensemble cast, but this really is Joe Wright's show all the way. (Maybe it has a lot to do with Ian McEwan's book, but I haven't read that yet).

Catch Me if You Can: Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in one of Spielberg's most entertaining recent effort. I caught it in my gym twice over last year and both the times I couldn't switch to any other channel for next hour and half.

Crash : It crashed Brokeback Mountain's expected party at the oscars and deservedly so. Some people called it contrived, which it might've been, but it is engrossing throughout. Some great stories, great acting ensemble, and a message that really resonates with me. Some of the gasp-inducing moments haven't lost any of their power even after so many viewings.

The Departed : I remember liking Infernal Affairs a lot, but it is The Departed that stayed with me longer. Perhaps because I ended up seeing it many times as compared to just once for Infernal Affairs. Still, I don't think you can keep a movie with Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlburg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin out of many top movies lists even if it was directed by me. This, on the other hand, was one of Scorsese's better recent works.. so... :)

In the Mood for Love : Slow motion was discovered/invented for this movie. Wong Kar Wai invaded my imagination with this movie (and continued with 2046!). I don't think I still have a clue about the ending, but that really doesn't matter. Every time I see it, I marvel at the clever screenplay. Yet, at the end of the day the thing that I can't get out of my mind are those slow motion scenes and that awesome soundtrack!

Lage Raho Munnabhai : Munnabhai M.B.B.S was good, but all the things that reminded me of old Hollywood movies always stopped me from holding it in very high esteem. What Hirani (and Abhijat Joshi) did with Lago Raho was astounding though! This was as original, and as indian as I have seen anyone get in bollywood with something as entertaining. Hirani kept talking about Hrishida and Frank Capra, but I don't think anyone would've expected him to make a movie that wouldn't have looked out of place in either of those directors' filmographies. While everyone was laughing at the jokes, I kept marveling at how they had managed to write something THIS entertaining starting with the idea of Munnabhai and Gandhigiri! This is the closest I have felt any movie has come to making me feel the way I did when I saw Dekalog.

No Country for Old Men : My roommate didn't see what was so great about this movie, and I DO think that it makes things difficult for us in the last 5-10 min by that long contemplative ending about Tommy Lee Jones. But then, I guess, there is a reason it is called No Country for Old Men. What makes it such a great movie for me is those nearly perfect scenes of cat-and-mouse and the performances of nearly everyone in the movie. There is a constant sense of anticipation throughout the movie even when hardly anything action-y is happening on screen. Javier Bardem elevates it to another level, but, really, it is the Coens that just had the perfect day in office with this movie. (or maybe it is McCarthy.. I haven't read the book).

Memento : What an entrance to the public consciousness by Chris Nolan! And then he followed it up with all those awesome movies. Easily one of the directors of the decade. How exactly DOES one write a movie like Memento?? Aamir might have found this boring and incomprehensible, but I think this really is flawless.

Million Dollar Baby : When I saw Gran Torino, I liked it more than Million Dollar Baby. The theme of GTorino was certainly closer to my heart than MDBaby. Yet, today, I must say that MDB stays with me more. It might have something to do with the amazing work by Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank, or maybe it's just that I happened to see MDB again recently. Hard to separate, those two movies.

So.... these were the movies that lost out just because today is today. Up next, the part 2 of the list with the top-10.

Update: Part 2 of the list is here.

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