Against The Hype

movies, criticism and their pleasures

Top Movies of the Decade

November 17, 2009 By: Colin Low Category: One-Liner Reviews

Unlike most critics, I don’t get to watch a whole slew of movies as they are released. I have the luxury, though, of knowing critics whose tastes dovetail with mine enough that I tend to watch good movies (or at least interesting ones) whenever I rent them. So while most critics are now gearing up to write their personal Top 100 lists for this decade’s movies, I’ll be taking up the opposite challenge of watching all the movies listed by the critics I trust most, and writing one-liner comments on each. Beginning with Tim Robey of the Telegraph, and adding other critics as they post their lists, I’ll slowly make my way through their recommendations and rank them by my own tastes. To start:

Movies I’ve seen so far from these lists (ranked in descending order):

  1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (’04): A patchwork quilt of relationship truths and clever scifi, culminating in the wisest romantic insight since Annie Hall
  2. The Incredibles (’04): Deft, rocket-paced flexing of superheroes into crises of identity and family (full review)
  3. Erin Brockovich (’00): Finally, a star vehicle that fully capitalises on Julia Roberts’ prickly edges
  4. Julia (’08): You won’t find a more sober and disciplined director-actor pair playing so drunk, desperate and out-of-control
  5. Birth (’04): Nicole Kidman thrives in close-ups and in being profoundly disturbed; this movie indulges her
  6. The Bourne Supremacy (’04): Whip-smart, breakneck spy thriller that sustains Jason Bourne’s clear-headed urgency while suffused with the pain of his loss
  7. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (’01): Epic worldcrafting, with actors and designers attuned to the demands of old-school myth
  8. In the Mood for Love (’00): Aestheticised within an inch of its life, which fits brilliantly its tale of yearning and suffocation in ’60s Hong Kong
  9. Before Sunset (’04): Sadness and self-absorption jostle in this narrow Parisian sequel to the gloriously expansive and romantic predecessor
  10. Synecdoche, New York (’08): A heartfelt meditation on self-centredness and ageing; relies on your capacity for deadpan humor, sadsack-watching and between-the-lines editing
  11. Kill Bill Vol 1 (’03): Candy-coloured pop fantasia of actresses and Japanese action movies, with a drop in mid-film momentum from Uma’s ineptness with bimbo humour
  12. The Hurt Locker (’09): More realistic, tense sequences of warfare than you’ll find elsewhere, though the soldiers teeter a bit towards broad enigma
  13. There Will Be Blood (’07): Fiery tempests wrought from the earth’s depths, Jonny Greenwood’s alien strings, and Daniel Day-Lewis’ oil baron. But things can get un-illuminatingly loud
  14. Memento (’00): Gimmicky collage of noirish scenes, blank-slate grieving and emotional manipulations held fast by a punchy existential twist
  15. Sideways (’04): Depends on your mileage for sadsacks, especially when they’re insulated by narrative perks, e.g. sex with the luminous Virginia Madsen
  16. Adaptation (’02): Depends on your mileage for sadsacks, especially when they’re insulated by narrative perks, e.g. being fictional
  17. No Country for Old Men (’07): Cleaves too easily into standalone scenes of well-edited tension and recycled caricature-humour to truly earn its mopey “bleak” ending
  18. King Kong (’05): Fanboy-wank remake bloated with CGI, wrapped around a cross-species romantic core that should have ventured beyond mere gestures at empathy
  19. Mysterious Skin (’04): Alternates between its boring and its exploitative plots, though Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s hustler gets a few emotionally raw/tender encounters
  20. Hunger (’08): I’m tired of arthouse exploitation as an excuse for male nudity, or vice versa; hurling shit-stained walls and clichéd police brutality at me doesn’t help

(The movies I have yet to see, or don’t remember enough to write about, can be found after the jump.)

Unseen movies from Tim Robey’s list (ranked in ascending order):

100. Dogville (’03)
99. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (’01)
98. Tropical Malady (’04)
97. Monster (’03)
96. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (’05)
95. Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner (’01)
94. Last Resort (’00)
93. Sugar (’08)
92. In this World (’02)
91. The Last Victory (’04)
90. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (’07)
87. A Time for Drunken Horses (’00)
86. Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (’02)
85. The Fountain (’06)
84. Gerry (’02)
83. White Material (’09)
81. Frozen Land (’05)
80. The King of Kong (’07)
79. Johnny Mad Dog (’08)
77. Les petites vacances (’06)
76. Abouna (’02)
75. We Own the Night (’07)
74. School of Rock (’03)
73. The Night of the Sunflowers (’06)
72. Yella (’07)
71. Red Road (’06)
70. Downfall (’04)
69. Summer Hours (’08)
68. Deep Water (’06)
67. Secret Sunshine (’07)
66. 13 Lakes (’04)
65. Requiem (’06)
64. Bright Star (’09)
63. Uzak (’02)
62. Capote (’05)
60. Modern Life (’08)
59. Nationale 7 (’00)
58. The Corporation (’03)
56. When the Levees Broke (’06)
55. I ♥ Huckabees (’04)
53. The Wrestler (’08)
52. Lady Chatterley (’06)
51. The Fall (’06)
50. Bus 174 (’04)
49. The Circle (’00)
48. Adam & Paul (’04)
47. Y tu mamá también (’01)
Mulholland Drive
46. Kings and Queen (’04)
45. Couscous (’07)
44. The Company (’03)
43. Punch-Drunk Love (’02)
40. The Son (’02)
39. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring (’03)
38. The Holy Girl (’04)
37. Solaris (’02)
34. Los Angeles Plays Itself (’03)
33. The Sun (’05)
31. Songs from the Second Floor (’00)
30. Amores perros (’00)
29. Far From Heaven (’02)
28. Code Unknown (’00)
27. Donnie Darko (’01)
25. Morvern Callar (’02)
24. What Time is it There? (’01)
23. Talk to Her (’02)
22. The House of Mirth (’00)
21. Eureka (’00)
20. I’m Not There (’07)
19. Our Daily Bread (’05)
17. Spider (’02)
15. A Prophet (’09)
14. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (’07)
13. L’emploi du temps (’01)
12. Black Sun (’05)
11. The Piano Teacher (’01)
9. Junebug (’05)
7. Yi Yi (’00)
6. demonlover (’02)
5. The New World (’05)
3. The Death of Mr Lazarescu (’05)
2. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (’03)
1. Mulholland Dr. (’01)

Unseen movies from the Skandies Top 20 list (ranked in descending order):

1. Dogville (’03)
4. Mulholland Dr. (’01)
6. The New World (’05)
8. 25th Hour (’02)
9. Yi Yi (’00)
12. Silent Light (’07)
14. Werckmeister Harmonies (’00)
15. Irreversible (’02)
16. Zodiac (’07)
17. Ghost World (’01)
18. The Man Who Wasn’t There (’01)
19. Trouble Every Day (’01)
20. Gerry (’03)

2 Comments to “Top Movies of the Decade”

  1. Impressed you’d want to take my list on in such detail! It seems from your comments like I must have a serious tolerance for sadsacks (guilty), male nudity in prisons (er, guilty) and cross-species romance with dodgy CGI (yeah, guilty), though I guess we differ on the empathy question in each case.

    Great site you’ve got going — I look forward to checking out future responses. Fingers crossed our batting average of taste alignment improves!

    • Oh, don’t get me wrong, I sometimes blame myself for not having the stomach for “sadsacks”, which can feel like a label I use to keep myself from needing to know these characters better. (I’ll give an especial shout-out to Meryl Streep in Adaptation, since she leavens her, um, sadsack-itude with lots of humour and deftly projected feeling.) But even if a movie on your list doesn’t manage to hit my emotional buttons, at least I can always see why it is appealing, and chalk the difference down to taste; this is more than can be said for some of the lists that will turn up at the end of this year.

      And thanks for the compliment, and for taking the time to comment here! I certainly hope to love many of the movies to come (and at the very least learn from them).


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