Top 10 Movies of the 2000s

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Film buffs may wax poetic about the 1970s being the best decade for film ever, but the 2000s brought its share of work that will last way beyond the decade as well. Comedies, Drama, Animation, a new bar for “mockumentaries” and Brian DePalma may very well have invented a new genre altogether. THE HERMIT WITH DAVIS FLEETWOOD, with help from Kevin Egan,  takes a look back at the best movies of the past ten years.

#10: UP

Pixar’s best film to date was the first animated film to open the Cannes film festival, and deservedly so. In the decade that Time magazine bitches, like a spoiled 9th grade girl, “is the worst decade ever!” Up literally gives you a reason to live.

And by you, I mean Americans. Like the rich spoiled 9th grade girls that you all are…. What do you need a reason to live for?

You are happy. The economy does affect you. You text. You tweet. You vacation in Aspen. You have nothing in common with 78 year old Carl Frederickson. Everything is pulling him down. If he could just get into the grave already and end it. His creators were so efficient and pure filmmakers that they condensed the best years of his life and marriage into four dialogue less minutes- silent film homage that channels Chaplin and Citizen Kane and even Wall-E.

And what is Carl so grumpy about anyway?

His heroes have let him down, that is what. Turned out to be frauds.  Do you know what that is like you spoiled brats? What should I call you, you rich fresh, disrespectful, know it all youngsters. I’ll call you America. We live in a post ironic age, so I want to make sure you get it. Got it?

Now Carl built his life dream on a vision sold to him by these frauds and now his wife who shared this dream is dead. He is old. He is bitter. He has no dreams because they are bullshit.

Faced with eviction from the home he shared with his wife- did I mention she was dead? The love of his life dead, his dreams a bag of goods sold to him by frauds? And moping through old scrapbooks, the old geezer concocts a genius plan that is an all systems go last ditch effort to resurrect his reaide’tt, and guess what kiddies?

It works. And somehow pixar, with a see-through and in hindsight sentimental script, manages to literally make one- and by one I mean me, a cynical aging man of 40- soar. I mean the opening sequence of the film just grabs you and melts you to heaving, sobbing mess. Difficult to explain to my 7-year-old son sitting beside me, chomping on popcorn and thinking the 3-d effects are totally cool.

And then it is a buddy film. Because the house is flying and an 8-year-old boy was stuck on the porch when the house took off. Or is it a father son film? A pass the torch kind of film? An I’ll learn more from the kid about life than I have to teach him kind of film?

Anyone who has dealt with loss, and even you spoiled 9th grade brats who can imagine it, will be blown away by up- the best pixar feature to date and #10 on the NCFT top ten movie list of the decade.  -Davis Fleetwood

#9 Femme Fatale

(written by Kevin Egan)

Much like its director, Brian Depalma, Femme Fatale, a creatively slick crime drama that deconstructs the Hollywood archetype of the same name, has been completely ignored in this country since its release in 2002.  Still, it is a cinematically inventive masterpiece that utilizes every possible convention of the genre and then turns it upside down, in a way that only Brian Depalma can.  Ever since his horror masterpiece, Sisters, released in 1973, Depalma has been exploring Hollywood genres, picking them apart, finding out what is so fascinating about them, then exploiting those fascinating elements beyond necessity, in both a celebratory way, as well as a satirical one.  His film become essays on whatever genre he is navigating us through and perhaps this is why he is often misunderstood in America.  The overindulgence of sex and violence in his movies is more of a reflection of the excessive sex and violence in movies in general.  People react positively to these types of images so Depalma gives it to them in spades, taking the genre to the umpteenth degree.  Ultimately though, one has to realize there is much humor in his presentation and quite often these scenes are satirical jabs more than anything else.  Depalma both loves and laughs at Hollywood movies.

Femme Fatale begins with a jewel heist that takes place during the Cannes Festival.  And in true Depalma fashion, it includes long tracking shots, taking us up and down staircases, down long hallways and through ventilation shafts, a Bolero-esque classical piece that helps to build the suspense slowly, forcing viewers to shatter their expectations for fast cuts and fast action, and a sex scene hotter than any Depalma has shot previously, which says a lot, considering he also directed Body Double and Dressed to Kill.  After the heist is foiled and the heroine, Laurie, played by Rebecca Romijn, narrowly escapes her former partners in crime, who are now out to kill her, Laurie finds herself mistaken for another woman.  Laurie takes advantage of this turn of events and steals the woman’s passport, as well as her ticket to America.  Fast forward seven years later and Laurie is now married to the American ambassador to France and is forced to return to a country where assassins are out to kill her.  She remains incognito, so it takes some effort for the photographer, Nicolas, played by Antonio Banderas, to capture a picture of her for the tabloids.  Ultimately he does and her picture is plastered on billboards all over France, putting Laurie’s life in grave danger.

Similar themes that exist in earlier Depalma films find their way into Femme Fatale, particularly the theme of “the double,” in which there is either a case of mistaken identity, twin siblings with opposite personalities, or a character suffering from multiple personality order, as was the case in Body Double, Sisters, and Dressed to Kill, respectively.  The theme of surveillance and its intrusion into our personal lives has also found its way into Femme Fatale, much like in Blow Out, Depalma’s Americanized version of Antonioni’s Blow Up, in which a soundman records a car accident that proves to be no accident.  These themes mentioned play a crucial role in Femme Fatale, but ultimately, it is the theme of the Hollywood archetype, the “femme fatale,” and the expectations put on that character that dominates this film.  And ultimately those expectations are shattered and a new understanding of the archetype comes into existence.  This understanding could only be possible with a master writer/director manning the helm and Brian Depalma is just that, a master.  Wake up, America!

#8 Whatever Works

Is Whatever Works a brazen thesis and defense for Woody Allen’s relationship with Son Yi Previn?

Woody rarely does interviews. He spoke with Terry Gross of NPR while promoting his 40th film- Whatever Works, claiming, among other things, not to be the character “Woody Allen” we have gotten to know in his films but rather a simple t-shirt wearing beer drinking sports fanatic. Now, unless you have lived in New York, you may have a hard time believing that a prolific filmmaker who can drop a Proust reference at the drop of a hat and plays clarinet in a Jazz band who lives and dies with the box scores, but I actually believe him. But that is beside the point. For someone who does so few press interviews, Woody was fairly adept at re-framing the conversation that he wanted to have without actually answering the question.

The central character in Whatever Works, originally written for Zero Mostel and then put in a drawer for a few decades, is played here with a whimsical- “yes-I-am-talking-directly-to-the-camera-it-is- a-fucking-movie-why-are-we pretending-that-it-is-not” verve by Larry David, is Boris Yellnikoff. A former professor who came close to winning a Nobel Prize. A brilliant misanthrope. He hates people, and he worries about dying. In other words, take any central character from a 1970s or 80s Woody Allen film, remove the self-doubt and anxiety and replace it with overweening arrogance and contempt for everyone and everything around him.

Oh, and he falls in love with a girl that in any universe east of the Hudson River, would be mistaken for his someone old enough to be his granddaughter.

Allen’s worldview that life full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it are all over much too quickly has fueled several decades of unparalleled comedy.

This is also the theme of Whatever Works, but Allen removes his self-depreciating alter ego to make room for the unapologetically brazen Boris. A man marching through life taking what he wants. Because, as Woody related in the aforementioned Terry Gross interview:

Work distracts me from…. the uncertainty of life and inevitability of aging and death, and mass killings and starvations and holocausts, and not just the manmade carnage but the existential position that you’re in, you know, being in a world where you have no idea what’s going on, why you’re here or what possible meaning your life can have and the conclusion that you come to after a while, that there is really no meaning to it, and it’s just a random, meaningless event, and these are pretty depressing thoughts. And if you spend much time thinking about them, not only can’t you resolve them, but you sit frozen in your seat. You can’t even get up to have your lunch.

But what everyone wants to know, Woody, is how can you live with yourself after marrying your almost daughter?

Does scandal like marrying and living happily ever after with your former daughter follow celebrities? Is that their curse? Or are they celebrities- outstanding success stories in the first place because they are the kind of people who will carefully consider life and all of the rules set out before them and ignore the rules that they don’t like?

Sleep walking through the existential crisis that is our lives, you are going to stop and point a judging finger at two consenting adults like Woody and Son Yi?

After putting his protagonist through several suicide attempts, Woody ditches the nebbish apologetic genius, and has Boris directly address the audience for the final coda:

I happen to hate New Year’s celebrations. Everybody desperate to have fun. Trying to celebrate in some pathetic little way. Celebrate what? A step closer to the grave? That’s why I can’t say enough times, whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can filch or provide, every temporary measure of grace, whatever works. And don’t kid yourself. Because its by no means up to your own human ingenuity. A bigger part of your existence is luck, than you’d like to admit. Christ, you know the odds of your fathers one sperm from the billions, finding the single egg that made you. Don’t think about it, you’ll have a panic attack. That’s why I can’t say enough times, whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can filch or provide, every temporary measure of grace, whatever works.

Zen and the Art of the Intellectual Elite. Sounds like something approaching happiness.  -Davis Fleetwood

#7 Redacted

Critics of Brian DePalma’s polarizing 2007 film anti-war, mass media indictment, Redacted, note the good intentions, the high concept but lament the poor acting or the choppy script, or the sum does not add up to the intended parts- American critics were glad the film was made, but wished it were better and wondered at all of the foreign praise being lavished on the film. What is lost in all of the debate is that there is very little to contextualize what DePalma’s has done in Redacted. He has made the first major motion picture film not intended for the big screen, but for your laptop.

Employing found video, shot on hand held consumer video cameras from various sources and splicing them together to tell the story of the rape of an Iraqi girl and the murdering of her family by American Servicemen- the medium, including the fact that all the supposed “found video” is scripted and directed, is indeed a big part of the message here. Even a French speaking documentary film crew’s footage is fake. Just as much so, I hear DePalma screaming at me loud and clear, as the story of the Iraq War that many of us see and hear at home.

The pre-meditated rape and murder that gets embedded in the script of Redacted is based on an actual rape and murder that took place in Iraq by the hands of United Sates servicemen. But DePalma’s villains are not the actual perpetrators of this rape and murder, but their squad members who knew about the plan and did nothing to stop it, and of course, by extension- American Citizens at home who knew the invasion and occupation of Iraq was based on lies and did nothing to stop it from happening.

Rape as actual horror of, and metaphor for war is well-trodden territory for Depalma. His 1989 film Causalities of War centers on a similar incident in the Vietnam War.

The problem with “Redacted”, writes A.O. Scott in his NY TIMES review is that the representation is an unwieldy hodgepodge of brutal naturalism and self-conscious theatricality, its potential power undermined by schematic storytelling and clumsy acting.

Again, conventional expectations leave one missing the point. Yes, the acting is clumsy, but I promise you this: give me Ben Kingsly and film him doing Hamlet with a hand-held consumer camera and he will look no better than a high school thespian training for a forensics competition.

DePalma could have put his actors under the bright lights and professional cameras and given us yet another slick war story with a cathartic ending and a top ten soundtrack with Ashton Kutcher playing the lead.

But what does he give us- Rob Devaney, playing Lawyer McCoy one of the soldiers who knew of the premeditated rape and murder, went with his friends to the scene of the crime and did nothing to stop it, in the films final devastating scene. Back home in an American bar with is wife and friends, his coming home party is being filmed with yet another hand-held best buy special. “Tell us a war story” his friends egg him on, for the camera. Nothing is done if not for the camera.

“You want a war story. I’ll give you a war story” and he proceeds to tell them how his friends did what they did. How they planned it. How he knew about it. How he was there. And how he did nothing to stop it.”

His friends, and the other patrons in the bar, Americans through and through, give him a standing ovation.

“This man is a war hero!” they brand him, and give him a standing ovation.

And before the credits roll, five minutes of actual photographs from the Iraq war that one is not likely to see watching Keith Olberman.

Photojournalism mixed with scripted (un) reality. The medium is the message right through to the bitter end Brian DePalma’s misunderstood but none the less brilliant film REDACTED.  -Davis Fleetwood


#6 Inlorious Basterds

(written by Kevin Egan)

Not only is it a celebration of the art of filmmaking, as well as a celebration of the pop culture Quentin Tarantino loves so dearly, the 2009 World War II epic saga, Inglorious Basterds, is also the film that will one day go down in history as Tarantino’s masterpiece.  Drawing on influences from other World War II films, Spaghetti Westerns and Marvel Comics, Tarantino’s heroes are as bold as Captain America and his villains are as treacherous as the Red Skull, particularly Colonel Hans Landa, played eerily and frightfully by Christoph Waltz, who easily steals each scene in which he appears.  The techniques Tarantino uses in the film are a refreshing reminder of the glorious possibilities of the cinema, especially in a world in which most films are now shot on handheld video cameras.  His use of slow-motion photography is unrivaled in modern day moviemaking, although it never lets us forget that it is of a longstanding cinematic tradition, used most effectively in the past by Sergio Leone and Brian Depalma.  Tarantino exploits this technique in one of the most tragically beautiful scenes in the film, in which its heroine, Shoshanna, battles for her life against a Nazi suitor inside a movie theatre projection booth. The scene not only dazzles the eye with marvelously colored textures, it also dazzles the eye with marvelously colored textures, as well as heightens the viewer’s emotions in one of the most visually explosive displays of melodrama ever put up on the big screen, creating images that will take a lifetime to forget.

Tarantino understands there should be no limitations when making a film.   He also understands there are no better villains in movies than Nazis, particularly the infamous Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, and the devil himself, Adolph Hitler.  Again, Tarantino is running the show, so anyone and anything can appear in his film and there is no need for him to justify it.  Again, he understands the endless possibilities of moviemaking.  So, in the heroic fashion of Sergeant Nick Fury of Marvel Comic fame, Brad Pitt’s Lieutenant Aldo Raine and his band of mostly Jewish American soldiers, known as “The Inglorious Basterds,” kill more Nazis in this film than cowboys have killed Indians in the entire history of cinema.  True, the violence is over-the-top and disproportionately excessive, to say the least, but that’s the point.  Tarantino knows no limitations and takes everything to the umpteenth degree in that cartoonish fashion he has ultimately made his trademark.

Perhaps what truly makes this film so extraordinary is its pacing.  Unlike the many cowardly directors in Hollywood that live in fear of losing the audience’s attention, so they keep their scenes short and the cuts fast, Tarantino takes his time building the dramatic intensity of each scene slowly, bit by bit, revealing tiny slivers of information, as plot twists gradually take these scenes in new directions, making them even more gripping and enthralling, until after what seems like a lifetime of suspense, all hell finally breaks loose.  It’s a fantastic and courageous approach to writing.  One hardly used  anymore in Hollywood.  The dramatic emotional effect created by these long, enthralling scenes are at the crux of “Inglorious Basterds.”  Then throw on top of them some all-out Nazi-killing fantasy sequences and you have what is easily the best film of 2009.

#5 Borat

With the 2006 masterpiece Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen rightfully takes his place alongside master satirists such as Mark Twain, George Orwell, Trey Parker & Matt Stone, and Osama Bin Laden.

From flipping off the Hey Jack Kerouac “I am an American so I can only self actualize by taking a cross-country trip Thelma & Louise/ Bonnie & Clyde genre” that is the very heart and soul of American self myth making to risking life and limb by crashing a rodeo and offering the Us of A well wishes from Kazakstan by stating “we support your war of terror, may George Bush drink the blood of every single man woman and child of Iraq!!! And over the cheering supporters at the rodeo, exclaiming “may you destroy their country so that in the next 1000 years not even a single lizard will live in their desserts” and only then the racist, Jew hating homophobe Borat launches into a fictional version of the Kazak national anthem sung to the tune of the star-spangled banner.

That Cohen never winked at his audience may have shrunk the number of people who got what he was doing, but it did set a new standard for mockumentaries. Staying in character even during the promotional tour for the film gave us classic Borat material, like his visit to the David Letterman show where he shared that, to his surprise, it is now illegal to shoot at “Red Indians” in U, S and A. His apology to the staff at Potowotomic Casino in Nevada barely audible over the laughter of the American audience.

Even the real people who were skewered in the film seem to feel like they have gotten off okay- yet another testament to the power the new satire:

Bobby Rowe, the man at the rodeo who advised Borat to shave his mustache, so as not to be mistaken for a Muslim and scolded Borat when kissed on the cheek in Khazak fashion, saying: “people might think you are gay.” When Borat remarks, gleefully, “We hang homosexuals in my country!” Rowe responds: “That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Yeah, even that guy thinks he came off okay in the film. He told the Roanoke Times: “I’m not really worried about it,” he says. “It can’t be so bad that I can’t survive. No one’s coming and trying to eat me.”

And he went further, defending his comments in the film by stating, again for the Roanoke Times:

As long as faggots don’t mess with me and get me involved, if that’s their choice, just have at it. Just don’t come in my household and try to demand, as they’re doing now, all sorts of things. All this marriage and this mess. If you want to go live together, go live together, but don’t drag everyone else into it. It’s, like, before you could just pump your gas, but the thieves ruined it for everyone. Now everyone has to go pay for their gas first. Homosexuals, they want their rights for marriage and all this stuff, and they want respectability. If you want to live that life, live that life, but don’t involve the whole rest of the country.

Satire that self perpetuates after Cohen is onto other projects.

High Art.     -Davis Fleetwood

#4 The Fog of War

When the type of filmmaking that you do requires you to invent a new type of camera, and your single subject is the former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara trying to exercise his demons the end of his life and you are documentary film maker named Errol Morris, you have indeed caught lightning in a bottle. Fog of War won the 2004 Oscar for best documentary; One would hope that before we continue the Bush Doctrine (albeit delivered with the careful application of a thesaurus from a more handsome mouthpiece of a commander-in-chief) by sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to kill and be killed that Obama and his staff will watch this film.

Morris’s camera is called the “Interrotron”. So dubbed because it combines terror and interview, it is a camera refitted with a 2-way mirror, much like a teleprompter, so that Morris could speak into a camera and his subject could look directly into the camera and answer. The result is less of “fly on the wall” and more eye contact with the subject.

The Interrotron grabs McNamara by the lapels and demands answers to much of the why’s of much of the murder committed in the name of American foreign policy dating back to World War Two, with a special emphasis on Vietnam- the period where McNamara earned his nickname- Mac the Knife- serving as the Defense Secretary under Kennedy and Johnson. McNamara bobs and weaves, occasionally approaches what might amount to an “I’m sorry” or even an “I regret…” but the most prescient and moving of his answers are in the silent pauses before, during and after his answers to Morris’ questions. It is during these silences, with the Interrotron washing over the wrinkled and defiant scowl on McNamara’s face- and with a Phillip Glass score to drive one relentlessly again and again, each elongated present moment- that McNamara’s character shines through.

While film critics praise the movie, many in the anti-war movement, such as one exists, were critical of Morris- suggesting he was soft on his subject. I found the exchanges between Morris and McNamara (the director leaves the audio of his off camera questions in the film) – and the silences captured therein, to be Pinteresque. One watches the Fog of War with a slowly seeping horrific realization that the most thoughtful, intelligent, accomplished and powerful people in the world can think of no way to strategize a plan that gets us of our accelerating date with a World War Three.

Morris organizes his film into “Eleven Lessons from the life of Robert McNamara.” Among them “Empathize with your enemy” “Rationality will not save us” and the eleventh “You can’t change human nature.”

McNamara had related early in the film “Khrushchev was rational” McNamara remembers, “Castro was rational, Kennedy was rational” and yet that the worlds most intelligent minds (according to McNamara) came within a hairs breath of maneuvering the chess pieces into a situation that would have brought about the nuclear annihilation of much of Cuba, the Soviet Union and the Unites States during the Cuban missile crisis by accident, or out of rage or vengeance, but through rational thought.

But Morris does not allow us to see McNamara as a hero for our time for trying to set his- and America’s- record straight.

Far from it.

The film ends with Morris asking McNamara if he feels at all responsible or guilty for what happened in Vietnam. “I don’t want to go any further into this,” he replies. It would require too many corrections and qualifications. It would arouse more controversy.” Does it feel as if McNamara would be damned if he answered the question and damned if he didn’t, Morris asks. Yes, his subject says, and he’d “rather be damned if I don’t.”   -Davis Fleetwood

#3 Half Nelson

The set up for Half Nelson reads like another desperate attempt for some former Hollywood A- list actor hijacking an indie film to get their mojo back: white teacher working in an inner city school. Whitey gonna save the day. (Sorry Michelle Pfeiffer) Before you have time to cringe first time director Ryan Fleck, with co-screenwriter Anna Boden executes a double leg takedown of the Mississippi Burning meets No Child Left behind genre.

With the script literally and figuratively flipped on its head- it is white teacher Mr. Dunne, played by Ryan Gossling in one of the most riveting performances of the decade, who is a crack addict. When one of his students walks in on him after a basketball practice in the gym bathroom, Dunne is temporarily paralyzed and wacked out after a hit on the crack pipe. The ensuing exchange between teacher and student- with teacher unable to stand but repeating “Are you OK?” I’m fine. I’m sorry. Just don’t go okay, just for a minute” his student Drey  (a mature and restrained performance from Shareeka Epps) suddenly becomes his peer.

When Epps surrogate father figure turns out to be- you guessed it- a drug dealer, the script could easily knock down the Hollywood dominoes in a well-worn template. And yet Gosling’s Dunne comes face to face with the many layers of his own hypocrisy.

An ex hippie wane be activist, Dunne is teaching history to 8th graders in Brooklyn, why exactly? To change the world, one person at a time? History is change, he explains. Change being the result of two opposing forces, teach explains, with some thinly veiled critique of the Bush administration thrown in.

Any liberal do gooder in the Bush-era trying to make a difference had reason to wallow in self-pity. “What can I teach them?” Dan Dunne asks of himself in a bar after school.

Fleck and Boden, like their protagonist, don’t provide any easy answers. Authority figures in this indie gem, be they the characters or the filmmakers themselves, don’t have all the answers.        -Davis Fleetwood

#2 No Country For Old Men

written by Kevin Egan

Not since The Maltese Falcon has a film been able to capture a book so perfectly, beat for beat, as the Coen Brothers’ version of the Cormac McCarthy novel, No Country for Old Men.  The story seems almost tailored made for the filmmakers that created such crime classics as Fargo, Miller’s Crossing and Blood Simple.  No Country… is a terse, rough and rugged story of lies, deception and murder, with sprinklings of irony and humor to juxtapose the sometimes brutal imagery.  If one was to walk blindly into the theatre without any previous information, one would possible come away thinking the Coens had written the story themselves, if not for the credits at the end.

Also captured perfectly by the Coens is McCarthy’s theme of evil outlasting even the strongest of men, leaving its main character, as well as the audience, with nothing but a feeling of helplessness at the movie’s end.  This feeling of helplessness left some viewers feeling cheated when the credits rolled, but if we were to consider the film’s final image, in which Tommy Lee Jone’s Sheriff Bell is drained of all hope, strength, and courage, the Coens’ controversial “CUT TO BLACK” seems like the only sensible choice, particularly after Sheriff Bell realizes the fight against everlasting evil is an impossible one.

That everlasting evil created by McCarthy and brought to the screen by the Coens is personified by assassin-for-hire, Anton Chigurh, performed brilliantly by Javier Bardem.  A lot of attention was brought to the Bardem’s quirky haircut in the film, which made him look like a cross between Atonio Banderas and Emo Philips, but it was Bardem’s, or should I say Chigurh’s, unflinching ability to maintain his focus on his assignment,  regardless of bullet wounds and half the state of Texas after him, that made him that more frightening, perhaps the most frightening in movie history.  Chigurh is unlike many movie villains in the sense that we are not sure if he is even human, at least in the sense that he is easily able to move like “a ghost,” as Sheriff Bell describes.  In a very suspenseful scene, in which Bell enters a crime scene late at night, Chigurh is there one second, gigantic gun in hand, and miraculously not there the next, leaving us asking about his uncanny and more-than-human abilities.  And if we still weren’t convinced there wasn’t something unholy and evil about Chigurh, Woody Harrelson’s character, Carson Wells, a Vietnam veteran turned gun-for-hire, describes him as dangerous as “the Bubonic Plague.”  Wells had, at sometime, crossed paths with Chigurh and he, along with Sheriff Bell, knows all too well how unusually psychotic Chigurh really is.

Surprisingly this movie actually won the Academy Award for Best Picture, which was a shock to just about anyone and everyone with decent taste in movies, considering ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the Academy is usually way off, in regards to what actually was the best picture of that year.  Of course, that year, the press focused on how uneventful the Awards were, most likely because a sharp, clever, excellently-made film actually won, which probably was a disappointment for whoever was looking for another Titanic to sweep.  Bardem also won for “Best Actor” and deservingly so.  Without him, I’m sure the Coens still would’ve delivered the goods, as they have since they first started making movies, but when the right part finds the right actor, it makes a film much more special, which No Country For Old Men certainly is.  In fact, it is unquestionably the best film of 2008.

#1 The Royal Tenenbaums

(written by Kevin Egan)

Set in a fairy tale version of New York City, The Royal Tenenbaums tells the story of a once great family of geniuses, uncomfortably settling into mediocrity.  Richie, the former tennis pro, is literally “out at sea,” tormented over romantic feelings he has for his adopted sister, Margot.  Margot, a famous playwright, hasn’t written a play in years, now spending most of her time watching television.  The business minded Chaz lost his wife in a plane crash and is drowning in a sea of neuroses, obsessing over the safety of his sons.  Why has this family fallen from such academic, creative and professional heights, when they once all seemed destined for greatness?

Simply put: It’s the old man’s fault.

Royal Tenenbaum, the patriarch of this dysfunctional tribe, played brilliantly by Gene Hackman, is a liar, cheat and philanderer.  When he should’ve been playing father to his children, he was embezzling money from them instead.  Still, ultimately it’s up to Royal to help put the pieces of his family back together.  It’s this paradox created by writers, Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, that make this story so complex and interesting.  Each Tenenbaum “child” has a special relationship to Royal, for better or for  worse, and these relationships are intricately tangled in their own unusual way.  The quirky, yet incredibly specific bits of information Anderson and Wilson unfold throughout the film help guide us through this puzzle of a family, adding to the complexity of the characters and enriching the story greatly.  The script for this film is one of the sharpest ever.  It is written in the tone of a novel and the narration by Alex Baldwin is just one of the many threads holding this masterpiece together.  It’s dialogue is funny, depressing and always poignant.  It’s about as sharp as can be in a film without being too conscious of itself.  It rolls fluidly from the tongues of the characters, as if it were as natural as the birds and the bees.

Music is also one of those many threads, if not the most important thread, that binds this film together.  Perfectly chosen songs reflect how each character feels about his or her self, their lives, and the other members of the family.   Chaz’s neuroses is expressed through the sounds of a syncopated jazz drum solo that keeps an unnerving rhythm, with accents as rattling as firecrackers.  Richie’s suicide attempt is cut to Elliot Smith’s “Needle in a Hay,” creating a punch of sadness that would drag anyone down in the dumps, yet it effectively communicates Richie’s complex moods and emotions.  “Christmas Time is Here,” the elegantly beautiful song from The Charlie Brown Christmas Special shadows Margot in some of her scenes, reflecting the years she has spent watching television,  as well as the gloomy feelings one experiences during sunless winter months.  Not surprisingly, however, the song expressing the most joy is “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” by Paul Simon, which articulates Royal’s lust for life, adventure and rascalism.  True, this rascalism is what originally got Royal into trouble, but it’s also what the Tenenbaum children desperately need to jumpstart their lives.

With a stellar cast across the board, all bringing home the bacon, including Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Owen Wilson, Angelica Huston and Danny Glover, along with director, Wes Anderson, who brings to life one of the most unique and creatively inventive stories ever told, it would be impossible to imagine any other film BUT The Royal Tenenbaums as the greatest of the last ten years.  This film is that important.

Yes, that important.

“Neddle in the Hay” (Elliot Smith) sequence from The Royal Tenenbaums:

-Kevin Egan contributed significantly to this feature, writing reviews for Femme Fatale, Inglorious Basterds, No Country For Old Men, and The Royal Tenenbaums. Kevin Egan is the editor and creator of The Umpteenth Times, a humor website that satirizes the world of music and all its colorful players. He is also the author of an essay entitled, “Embracing the Darkness,” that is included in the recently released book, The Light in Darkness, a collection of stories and essays about the Bruce Springsteen album, Darkness on the Edge of Town. Finally, Kevin is currently working on his own book entitled, Please Dont Let Me Be Misunderstood: a Critical Guide to the Most Misinterpreted Songs in Rock ‘n’ Roll, a book that examines popular misconceptions about some of the greatest rock songs ever written. He can be reached by email @ kevinegan738 {at} gmail {dot} com



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23 thoughts on “Top 10 Movies of the 2000s

  1. Pingback: TOP 10 SONGS OF THE 2K’S « no cure for that

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  14. Here the F’n list.

    1. Traffic
    2. Eternal Sunshine…
    3. There Will Be Blood
    4. Inglourious Basterds
    5. Precious
    6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons
    7. Kill Bill
    8. The Aviator
    9. A.I.
    10.The Watchmen

  15. Pingback: BONO’s Festival of Abraham « no cure for that

  16. Kevin and Davis,

    Amazing, amazing work here. “No Country for Old Men” makes my top five of the year as well. And “Redacted” cracks my top ten- glad to see someone else acknowledging De Palma’s film for the brilliant, passionate gem that it is. As an added bonus, “Femme Fatale” still manages to sneak into my Top 50.

    I enjoy this list, too, because some of the titles you favor by select filmmakers are opposite of my own. You say “Whatever Works”, I say “Match Point”. You say “Up”, I say “Finding Nemo” (and “Ratatouille”). Nice to hear different opinions on great filmmakers.

    Your inclusion of “The Fog of War” makes me envious because I neglected to see that film before setting up my list. But since I love Errol Morris and, as an American history buff, have always been incredibly interested in the Cold War era that McNamara served through, I’m definitely going to be checking out that film immediately. “Gates of Heaven” and “The Thin Blue Line” are some of my favorites of Morris’ stuff.

    I’m still warming up to “Inglourious Basterds”, which is well-made; but I’m at odds with Tarantino’s dubious morals and politics. As for “The Royal Tenenbaums”, I admire it, but I prefer “The Darjeeling Limited” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” since they grant Anderson the privilege of being more exuberant.

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  18. Well written and in-depth top 10. Some great choices here and many that haven’t appeared on the many other top 10s/20s/50s/100s of the last decade. Interesting choice to include Fog of War and Redacted – I haven’t seen those make anyone elses lists.

  19. Pingback: Top 50 Films of the 2000s » Top10Films

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