Movies have changed drastically over the last 10 years (special effects capabilities, cheaper equipment, distribution channels, etc.), but the most important things have stayed the same: their ability to evoke moods and feelings, to transport you to foreign or fantastical worlds, to entertain and to make you think.
Here are some of my favourites of the last decade:
A brilliant usage of the medium of film to not only tell a story, but to put you in the shoes of its main character. The backwards walk through events which led up to the opening of the movie were a perfect way of bringing the viewer a sense of what it must be like to have no short term memory.
19. Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession
This documentary is about the rise and fall of one of the first independent cable movie networks, but it's really two very different things at once: 1) the tragic story of its founder and 2) a love letter to the movies, the passions they stir in us and how thrilling it can be to discover new favourites.
18. The Taste of Tea
A tale of a Japanese family who are wrapped up in their own personal issues and problems until the head of the family is able to show them how to enjoy the simple things in life. Warm, wonderful, funny and surreal. And I can watch this scene over and over...
Bowling For Columbine may have been the big boost to documentaries in the last decade, but I see this incredibly entertaining look at the U.S. National Spelling Bee as one of the most influential. By focusing on the people, it takes a relatively mundane topic and makes it pretty damn interesting and even exciting at times. In its wake there have been docs about crossword puzzles, scrabble, children's ballroom dancing, parrots and a font (and each one pretty damn good).
16. Linda Linda Linda
You want a coming of age film for teens? Nobuhiro Yamashita knows how to make them. A sweet story about 4 young girls practicing for a battle of the bands competition, Yamashita allows the camera to linger with these characters and lets us get to know them.
15. Synecdoche NY
I'll still be digging through the multiple layers this film contains years from now.
14. In the Shadow of the Moon
Stunning footage of one of humankind's greatest technological feats with commentary from the incredibly intelligent men who were part of it. Fascinating and jaw-dropping. Reviewed previously here
Modern Film Noir in a high school setting with a sharp, witty script. It shouldn't work, but it does like gangbusters.
12. A Gentle Breeze in the Village
A beautiful sweet tale of a young girl transitioning from her one room schoolhouse into adulthood. It's a crime this isn't available to a wider audience. Reviewed previously here.
11. Mulholland Drive
There's good reason this is topping so many Best of Decade lists. Whether you seek to unlock all its mysteries or to just let it wash over you, in the end you'll likely have had a very satisfying trip.
10. You, The Living
Find enjoyment in life where you can and make the most of it. Because time is ticking. Reviewed previously here.
9. The Incredibles
Though it's even more fun to watch Pixar's multi-hued wonders with kids next to you, it's by no means a requirement. I had to include at least one them in my list and could have chosen randomly from their productions so far, but I return to The Incredibles the most often due to its great characters, solid story and incredibly fun and well-realized action scenes.
8. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Maybe it's the music. It wouldn't be the first time that my feelings toward a film have been radically changed simply due to its music. Whatever the case, I get a grin as wide and as goofy as Everett and Delmar's whenever I watch this.
7. Punch Drunk Love
As great a depiction of what love feels like (the wooziness and the invincibility) as I've seen.
6. Ocean's Twelve
I've talked ad nauseum about how I feel about this film. An experimental art film that is hugely entertaining.
5. The Royal Tenenbaums
Some poeple hate Wes Anderson's stylistic touches. Others are simply tired of them. I love every last one of 'em.
A feel good movie for sure, but when it's made this gorgeously with a main character this enchanting, I'm completely sold.
3. Almost Famous
My comfort food film. I know this kid. I was very much like this kid. When the needle drops on The Who's "Tommy", I can feel the goosebumps he was getting on his arms.
2. Lady Vengeance
A masterful use of style to convey one woman's long tortured journey to achieve redemption. Again, the music in the film is a huge contributing factor (positions 2 through 8 all have music as a huge component).
1. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
You had to see that one coming...The greatest love story of the past decade. A beautiful ode to the importance and joy of the journey of a relationship - it's not about where you end up, it's the ride you take on your way there. Michel Gondry's direction and mix of digital as well as old school effects creates the unpredictable mess of a memory in Joel's head. A film and story that will never tire me.
And a further list of 30 others to make a nice round Top 50 (though I'm not ranking these - I've put them in alphabetical order):
- 9/11 - An amazing document of a terrible day.
- The Aristocrats - Much filthier than I usually enjoy my comedy, but the interest comes from watching different comedians approach improvisation and their craft in general.
- Battle Royale - Kinji Fukasaku's last great movie.
- Before Sunset - It's not often that a filmmaker can revisit characters that he had left a decade previous and manage to make their story even more compelling.
- Black Dynamite - Not just the funniest movie I saw in 2009, but one of the funniest of the last 10 years.
- C.R.A.Z.Y. - This is why I need to see more Quebecois films.
- Chacun Son Cinema - 34 short films by 34 different directors about loving the cinema.
- Dancer In The Dark - I'm undoubtedly affected by a film's style and I found the musical by way of Dogme 95 idea unique and strangely effective.
- Deadline - Remarkable documentary about the last 2 months of the term of the governor of Illinois and the decisions he has to make regarding the prisoners left on Death Row.
- Donnie Darko - Yes, I'm one of those people that got caught up in Richard Kelly's wormhole.
- Finding Nemo - Very funny (great voice work by Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres), gorgeously rendered and with a scene near the end that kills me every time.
- The Fountain - A stunning soundtrack to one of the more misunderstood films of the decade.
- Gosford Park - Robert Altman's last three films were all great, but this was the best of them.
- High Fidelity - Really liked the book, loved the movie.
- Let The Right One In - My preferred version of a modern vampire tale.
- The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou - I kinda already explained this above...
- No Country For Old Men - Almost as great as O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but in a totally different way.
- Nobody Knows - Akira is 12 and has been left in charge of his three younger siblings (all from different fathers) by his selfish mother in this tragic and very moving story.
- Only Human - It's hard to merge subtle comedy with slapstick and yet this Spanish film seems to do it effortlessly.
- Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer - Tom Tykwer's stylish and very disturbing tale of a man determined to create the ultimate scent.
- The Prestige - Any story that can incorporate Nikola Tesla into it is fine by me.
- Primer - I'm a sucker for time travel stories especially when they overlap on themselves like this low-budget labyrinth.
- Pulse - Still wondering if I should have included Kiyoshi Kurosawa's incredibly creepy ghost story/doomsday scenario in my Top 20.
- Silent Light - Beautiful.
- Songs From The Second Floor - I now have an idea what purgatory might be like.
- Spirited Away - The sheer amount of creativity and imagination put into this film and its characters is staggering.
- Still Walking - Hirokazu Kore-eda has the ability to tell simple stories in very engrossing and compassionate ways.
- Survive Style 5+ - Explosions of colour and fun.
- The Triplets Of Belleville - A unique visual style combined with fantastic music create one of the best animated movies of recent times.
- United 93 - Even knowing the tragic outcome, the film delivers some of the most tense scenes of the decade.
And a random selection of others that simply jumped to mind because of moments, sequences or just feelings that they gave me:
- 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
- 49 Up
- Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy
- Anvil: The Story Of Anvil
- C'est Pas Moi Je Le Jure
- Calle 54
- Country Wedding
- Dear Zachary
- Funky Forest
- Ju-On: The Grudge
- Plages D'Agnes
- School Of Rock
- Soul Power
- Stone Reader
- Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance
- Tears Of The Black Tiger
- Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby
- Werckmeister Harmonies
I don't know about you, but that was a helluva decade for film.