Sunday, January 10, 2010

2000-2009 : A shout-out to my favorite movies. Part 2

The first part of the list is here.

For a small introduction to this list, see the post linked above. After having listed the 10 movies that almost made it to this list but had to be left out, we come today to my actual top-10 of the 2000s. As I told you, it is absolutely not possible to rank among these gems, and it isn't of any use either. Between these movies, the top is whichever I happen to have seen most recently! So, in alphabetical order...

City of God : Easily one of the best crime/gangster genre movie of all time. Absolutely perfect in every way. The screenplay, the cinematography, direction, performances, everything is just pitch perfect in what is essentially a movie just about guns, drugs and kids disguised as young men.

The Dark Knight : Oh, what more can I write about it. Chris Nolan took a superhero franchise and made a brilliant crime thriller out of it. A movie that easily holds its place among the best crime dramas, yet is as thrilling and exciting as any summer/holiday blockbusters you can think of. It came with some of the biggest hype you'd have seen for any movie and yet not just lived up to everyone's sky-high expectations, but went beyond it. The only question is, what will Nolan do when he has to return to Batman after Inception?? How on earth can he match this??

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind : So, how does someone with the screenplays of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation on his resume handle a love story? What can Charlie Kaufman do within the genre of romance without making it seem like the 20-a-year romcoms/romdramedies that are out there? He writes Eternal Sunshine! Who else could've written a mindbending sci-fi that twists usual guy-girl relationship story into something as funny, as sad, as engaging as Eternal Sunshine? And then they ask Kate Winslet to play Clementine! She adds her own sunshine to everything she touches anyway! :)

The Incredibles : While Up, Finding Nemo, and especially WALL-E, have some really astounding sequences, I think the Brad Bird movies were Pixar's pinnacle this decade. Irresistible fun from the first scene to last (except, maybe, some action sequences), Incredibles really was incredible! A friend was horrified when I had mentioned that I preferred The Incredibles over Million Dollar Baby that year, but now at the end of the decade I still find myself thinking the same thing. Clearly it wasn't just a fad. Over the years I have seen it probably 15 times, and it is just as entertaining as ever.

Kill Bill : After having teased us for years about his project which is the ultimate revenge movie.. his homage to martial art movies and B-grade westerns, Quentin finally gave us Kill Bill-1. And WHAT a treat to the senses it was. Right from the "Bang bang, my baby shot me down" opening through all those lady-in-yellow-decimating-the-crazy-88-killers and animated-back-story-of-O-Ren Ishii to the hyped up anticipation of the ultimate kick-ass villain 'Bill' at the end, Kill Bill-1 was an unforgettable experience. Next year he outdid himself by surpassing the impossible expectations that everyone had for his Bill. Can you think of ANY character that was as hyped up as Bill and yet surpassed it almost effortlessly by his charm and coolth, without really having to do anything other than talking?? Heath Ledger's Joker probably comes close in terms of impact. But that's about it! Also, Quentin kept saying all the while that the reason for splitting the movie in two wasn't business but creative, and everyone said a collective, cynical "yeah rrright!". But, in retrospect, he wasn't right all the while, wasn't he? These two are SUCH different movies and yet both work as well as the other.

The Lives of Others : Everyone was marveling at Pan's Labyrinth and had all but given the best foreign language feature awards to it when out of nowhere came this gem of a movie. An awesome spy-thriller that moves you better than most powerful dramas. Exactly HOW does someone make a movie like this as his first movie??

The Lord of the Rings : The trilogy that began the decade. And at the end of the century we'll probably be saying the same thing in the movies of 2000's lists. The star wars of our generation. Or maybe we'll have to say the Avatar of our generation to make the kids of early 2010s understand... hopefully they'll understand that the analogy is only in terms of the awesome pathbreaking visuals rather than the content itself, because nothing about Avatar comes close to the great work done by the writing/directing/acting team of LOTR movies. When I think back about these movies now, I don't just remember the Pillars of Argonath or the jaw-dropping Minas Tirith, but also Sam's monologue at the end of The Two Towers, and Pippin's sorrowful song forming the background score to Faramir's suicide mission, and all the funny banter between Gimli and Legolas... and (as NS reminds me) Miranda Otto's charm! :) when LOTR released, it was like no other movie before. Almost a decade from the release of the first movie, and after a decade full of wannabe costume/fantasy epics, it still remains so.

The Prestige : In the words of my phd advisor : "What a cool movie that was!!" :) Between reinventing Batman movies, Chris Nolan found some time to make this relatively smaller but just as enjoyable period/sci-fi/rivalry/revenge/mystery/thriller. If you haven't seen it yet, go and watch it NOW! So many wonderful scenes are playing in my mind's eye right now, so many quotes, and yet I can't think of a single one that won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it already. Whenever someone asks me for a recommendation for a good movie, I always have to ask them their favorite genre, some of their favorite movies etc to get some sense of their taste before I hazard any guess as to which movie they might like. The Prestige is one of an extremely tiny list of movies for which such questions seem entirely irrelevant. I have met people who have hated Lord of the Rings, The Departed.. people who haven't liked Kill Bill... who won't even give a chance to a movie because it is in a foreign laguage or was made before 1980, or is animation, or is one of those action/blockbuster kinds, or has a superhero.. or even if it seems too sad... Yet, I have not yet met a single soul who didn't like The Prestige. Not that finding someone like that would make me love it any less!! :)

Ratatouille : Brad Bird came to Pixar after making 'Iron Giant' and directed two insanely entertaining yet classy movies for them. Ratatouille followed immediately after The Incredibles and I simply could not believe that they had actually made something that made me seriously consider replacing The Incredibles as my favorite Pixar movie. The story of a rat who wants to be a chef that starts with a granny going berserk after rats in her attic and ends up making a point or two about professional art criticism? Just what else can these guys do?? Well, we know now that they can make a classic sci-fi story out of a love story between two robots with a combined vocabulary in single digits... or that they can make a movie for kids with a grumpy old man for a protagonist, showing a touching sequence about a miscarriage along the way.. seriously, what else can these guys do??

Snatch : Easily one of the funniest movies of all time. Guy Ritchie took Pulp Fiction, made it about an order of magnitude funnier, subtracted some of the serious violence stuff and made such rapid cuts that your head spins! But you don't mind because you are anyway rolling on the floor laughing your guts out. I know of people who didn't take my very strong advice of not watching this movie without subtitles and then wondering what all the fuss was about. so, I say it again. Don't miss a single word of this movie and you'll find yourself chuckling or laughing out loud months after having seen it. Pity Guy Ritchie never seemed to touch those heights again (I haven't seen any of those movies though.. perhaps it is time to check out Sherlock Holmes?)

In the end, some special mentions. These movies didn't make it to the top 20, but for some reason I have a feeling that that might be because I haven't seen some of them for a while and hence might've underrated them. These movies include -

Before Sunset, Downfall, Finding Nemo, Pan's Labyrinth, Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl, Road to Perdition, Let the Right One In.

Also, there are movies that just came out this yar and I just got the opportunity to see them once and liked them a lot but wasn't sure whether I'll still be liking them as much after a second viewing or after waiting 2 years. I suspect, however, that at least some of these will stay with me 10 years down the line and probably will deserve to have a place in the 2000's list in retrospect. These movies are The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, and In the Loop. Also, The White Ribbon seems to be a potentially great movie of 2009 that I haven't had a chance to see yet.

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