Review of the Decade: Film

ROB SMITH casts his mind back to the films he enjoyed over the past ten years.

Amelie Blood Chopper Cinema Decade Films Movies Royal

I’ve been putting this off for quite some time. There’s something incredibly daunting about trying to pick your favourite films of the decade.  It’s not that there aren’t enough films. Although at times this decade has seemed incredibly lacklustre, amongst these fetid abortions there have been plenty of good films to get your teeth stuck into (if you excuse my horribly mixed metaphor). The big problem is I haven’t seen everything this decade. For all I know Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen isn’t a seizure inducing skull rape and is actually a delicate treatise on loneliness in an age without God. Another problem is I’ve seen these films at different stages in my life. When I first saw Amelie I was thirteen, whereas I saw Half Nelson when I was twenty. When I was thirteen I was barely beginning puberty whereas by twenty…well actually not a lot had changed but you get the point.

With this in mind I’m simply going to recommend eighteen films to you from the past decade that you should watch. They are in no particular order and are by no means the best eighteen films of the decade. I just think you should give them a go.

Films I’d Quite Like You to See

1. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).
Is this Wes Anderson’s best film? No, his best film is Rushmore you fucking idiot. The Royal Tenenbaums is still pretty good though. I know the characters are 2D and that it’s quirky for the sake of being quirky but I don’t care. It’s a treat to watch and I could listen to Gene Hackman as Royal all day.

2. There Will Be Blood (2007).
A lot of people despise There Will Be Blood and I fully understand why. Yet it’s still one of the few films of the last decade that really got under my skin. Daniel Plainview is often compared to Charles Foster Kane and although this is true in one sense, in another it is completely wrong. Plainview has no Rosebud and will have no deathbed regrets, and it is this that makes him scarily compelling.

3. Memento (2000).
Also known as ‘that one that goes backwards’ by people who haven’t seen it. Those who have, however, realise that there is far more to it than that. The backwards story telling isn’t a gimmick, but is constructed so there is really no other way of doing this film. This is all capped off with a superb central performance by Guy Pearce and the chance to see Carrie Ann Moss and Joe Pantoliano on screen together without a leather trench coat in sight.

4. Amelie (2001).
Amelie celebrates the magical in the mundane, a common vein in French cinema, and my only criticism is that it feels like it’s trying too hard to do this at times. This is the kind of criticism that only occurs to you in hindsight, however, as I challenge you not to be enthralled by Audrey Tautou’s performance and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s direction whilst watching it.

5. Hidden (2005).
Hidden is fucked up. This is probably not a surprise to those who have even a cursory knowledge of its director Michael Haneke. The films rumbles along with an all pervasive sense of menace before suddenly, and graphically, shattering all of this. There’s a metaphor for France’s occupation of Algeria in there as well but this really isn’t as important as the critics make out.

6. The Pianist (2002).
I sometimes find it a little perverse that there is a whole genre of Holocaust movies. Why is there not a similar genre of Gulag movies? (If you just answered this question with the words ‘global Jewish conspiracy’ please go and take an overdose of barbiturates.) The Pianist is a very fine film, however, and one that’s focus on a single individual makes it feel very personal.

7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
Michel Gondry and Charlie Kauffman are a perfect pairing, with idiosyncratic direction and storytelling making for sublime cinema. It’s an absolute treat to watch but also manages to remain poignant thanks to brilliant central performances by Carey and Winslet.

8. The Lives of Others (2006).
The Lives of Others is very heavy, and yet also incredibly entertaining. It carries the essential message that art can save us, which is always a comfort when you’re an arts student about to face unemployment in a year's time. Ulrich Mühe gives a fantastic performance, a fact made tragic given the fact he died of stomach cancer not long after its release.

9. No Country For Old Men (2007).
The Coen brothers are ridiculously inconsistent but when they deliver they really do deliver. No Country is in many ways like the best Hitchcock: average man caught up in something he didn’t expect and on the run as a result. With the terrifying Anton Chigurh thrown into the mix, however, it becomes something quite different, bordering on psychological horror at times.

10. Amores Perros (2000).
When Amores Perros came out a lot of people started calling it the ‘Mexican Reservoir Dogs’ or the ‘Mexican Pulp Fiction’. This is the biggest load of bullshit ever as Iñárritu’s film has very little in common with Tarantino’s oeuvre other than fragmented story telling. It’s a lot more mature than anything Tarantino has ever produced and is a fantastic film in its own right.

11. Mulholland Dr. (2001).
It’s always pleasure to have a walk round Mr. Lynch’s head for a while. Continuing the themes of dual identity in Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr. is a glorious film even if you don’t understand a minute of it. Worth watching for the Club Silencio scene alone.

12. Brokeback Mountain (2005).
Crash won the best picture Oscar rather than this. For that piece of Oscar injustice alone it deserves to make the list. Aside from this Brokeback is a restrained and aching romance, most similar to Sense and Sensibility out of Ang Lee’s other films, and far more than just a gay cowboy gimmick.

13. Half Nelson (2006).
Aw, it’s one of those films about the white middle-class teacher who inspires inner city kids to learn through maverick methods. Oh no wait, the teacher’s a crack cocaine addict in a spiral of depression. If a partner ever makes you watch The Notebook, do so only on the proviso that you can watch another Ryan Gosling film. They probably won’t be expecting this.

14. Sexy Beast (2000).
Ben Kingsley barking cunt repeatedly. Sir Ben Kingsley. The same Ben Kinglsey who won an Oscar portraying Gandhi. This alone makes Sexy Beast worth watching.

15. Couscous (2007).
Couscous is not one of the top twenty films of the decade. The fact is though that no one has bloody heard of it and that is absolutely criminal. The film is about as naturalistic as any I can think of and follows a very simple story. It’s absolutely captivating and, without giving too much away, is fairly heartbreaking as well.

16. The Devil’s Backbone (2001).
This is Del Toro on top form, recasting mythologies (this time ghosts rather than vampires) and using childhood as a frame through which to look at the truly dark. Never have I cheered so hard at someone being speared to death as I have here.

17. Chopper (2000).
Chopper is the reason why Eric Bana is a star today and deservedly so. The only disappointment being that he has failed to do anything since that matches the intensity of this performance. Terrifying and hilarious in equal measure, Chopper is almost certainly the best film to come out of Australia…well ever really.

18. Team America World Police (2004).
Team America is intelligent yet puerile. Its songs are hilarious and it takes aim at just about every sacred cow imaginable. The puppetry is also really ingenious and is particularly comforting in an age of glossy CGI shit fests at every corner.

So there we have it, eighteen films from the last ten years you can’t go far wrong with. Were there some surprising omissions? If so look over my next five choices as you might find them there. These are films that weren’t necessary bad per se, but were definitely over hyped and over praised either at the time or even to this day.

Most Overrated Films of the Decade.

1. Spirited Away (2001).
Look I just preferred Princess Mononoke a hell of a lot more okay. In my opinion, Spirited Away seems to fall much more into Ghibli’s category of entertaining and charming kids’ films like Kiki’s Delivery Service rather than genius animation.

2. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).
Yes Pan’s Labyrinth is good and visually it’s stunning, but seriously chill the fuck out everyone. It’s not even Del Toro’s best film this decade (see above) and behind all the visual treats is a bit of a flat film.

3. The Dark Knight (2008).

Heath Ledger was very good and he died. Other than that I watched a very entertaining comic book movie, but not a great film outright. Its message about terrorism wasn’t clever, nor was it particularly true. Al-Qaeda don’t blow people up out of sheer anarchism, they do it because of an ideology, so stop pretending the Joker was a comment on post 9/11 America.

4. City of God (2002).
I really like City of God and I’ve only put it on here because of the continual comparisons to Goodfellas it received. Repeat after me: City of God is not as well acted, edited or directed as Goodfellas. Glad that’s settled.

5. Y tu mama tambien (2001).
Oh my god the two men end up fucking each other. Because that wasn’t obviously going to happen from the moment you saw them masturbating into a pool together at the start of the film. Also now I’ve ruined the shocking ‘twist’ you have no reason to watch this film. Think yourself lucky.

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