29 January 2010
  Best of the decade, part 2

best filmmakers:

5. michael moore (fahrenheit 9/11, sicko, capitalism: a love story). this decade, for the first time in history, people went to the movies. . . to see documentaries.

4. pedro almodovar (talk to her, bad education, volver). for someone who comes out with a new movie practically every other year, you'd expect there to be a bad one in there somewhere, but he hasn't really struck out yet.

3. joel and ethan coen (no country for old men, burn after reading, a serious man). like a lot of great filmmakers, they won their directing oscar for the wrong movie, but this has still been a great decade for them.

2. lars von trier (dancer in the dark, dogville, manderlay, antichrist). i have to admit i didn't quite get his latest offering, but does anyone ever totally GET a lars von trier film?

1. clint eastwood (mystic river, million dollar baby, letters from iwo jima, changeling, gran torino, invictus). i don't think that anyone could ever deny that as far as filmmakers go, this decade has belonged to eastwood. here's hoping he doesn't slow down any time soon.

best actors:

5. nicole kidman (moulin rouge, the others, dogville, cold mountain, margot at the wedding, australia, nine). sure she has had some bad films, but few have had as many good ones, and nobody takes as many chances as kidman.

4. leonardo dicaprio (gangs of new york, catch me if you can, the departed, blood diamond, revolutionary road). his turn in rev road cemented him in my mind as the greatest young actor working in hollywood today.

3. kate winslet (iris, eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, finding neverland, little children, revolutionary road, the reader). won her oscar for the wrong film, but at least she won one.

2. cate blanchett (the shipping news, babel, notes on a scandal, i'm not there, elizabeth: the golden age, the curious case of benjamin button). the last year has seemed pretty much empty without her. she is oscar worthy in every single one of her roles.

1. judi dench (chocolat, iris, the shipping news, mrs. henderson presents, notes on a scandal, nine). this has definitely been a decade nominated by british and australian actresses, the three cited above as well as helen mirren, keira knightly and others. judi dench is the best of the bunch.

best performances:

5. bill murray and scarlett johannson, lost in translation (2003). the most effecting on-screen pairing of the decade.

4. bjork, dancer in the dark (2000). in my opinion, the most egregious academy awards snub in recent memory. bjork literally takes your breath away in this very difficult role.

3. ellen burstyn, requiem for a dream (2000). helms some of the most haunting on screen moments of the decade, walking the streets of new york in "the red dress."

2. marion cotillard, la vie en rose (2007). with the exception of crash's victory over bareback, my favorite oscar win of the decade has to be cotillard's very deserving victory for her turn as edith piaf. it seems that biopics are the thing to do the past few years if you want an oscar, and frankly i hate them. cotillard's turn is a rare exception.

1. daniel day lewis, there will be blood (2007). if he acted in a couple more films, i would have to list him as the best actor of the decade. every one of his three performances over the past ten years has been exceptional. but his turn in this film is one of the great male performances of all time, and one that will definitely be admired for a long time to come.
28 January 2010
  Best of the decade, part 1

after reading through a thousand blogger's oscar predictions that are all virtually identical barring the occasional disagreement over whether to include julianne moore or diana kruger in the supporting actress category, i have really enjoyed reading a lot of critics best-of-the-decade lists. the reason is that they are all almost entirely disparate. of course there are a few films that crop up over and over again, but i think it is cool seeing films like steven spielberg's war of the worlds and synechdoche new york listed among the best. it just shows how despite this magical critical consensus that seems to form at the end of each year, people really do like all different kinds of films for all different reasons. as someone who counts west side story and twister as two of my top ten favorite movies of all time, i believe this is a fact that needs to be better understood if film awards are ever to get out of their current funk. that being said, here is my entirely singular list of the best films and performances of the decade:

best films:

**it kills me to limit the list to ten. honorable mentions go to cold mountain (2003)--how could this amazing movie possibly not be one of the decade's ten best?--erin brockovich (2000), frida (2002), best in show (2000) and bad education (2004)**

10. there will be blood (2007). this film perhaps more than any other expresses the spiritual, social, cultural emptiness of the 2000s. perhaps the only film made this decade that will undoubtedly survive (and continue to be relevant) into perpetuity.

9. slumdog millionaire (2008). the movie i wanted to hate from the beginning, but turned out to be one of my all time favorites. great movies, even about difficult subjects, can still be eminently watchable (hear that, lee daniels?)

8. moulin rouge (2001). this decade has certainly seen a revival of the musical genre, and this film is both partly responsible for that resurgence and the best movie musical to emerge from it.

7. lost in translation (2003). other than perhaps horror movies, the film genre that probably dominated the decade was the romantic comedy. lost in translation is definitely the best thing to come out of this genre in the last ten years, although to describe it as a rom-com would undoubtedly be a misrepresentation of a film that really defies categorization. also the best movie made by a woman this decade.

6. sideways (2004). the scene where virginia madsen describes to paul giamatti why she likes wine gets my vote as the best film scene of the decade.

5. avatar (2009). james cameron defies popular perceptions of what a movie can be. the greatest directorial accomplishment of the decade comes to theaters in its final days.

4. dancer in the dark (2000). the film that brought me to lars von trier. it's amazing to me how the filmmaker with the greatest understanding of the soul of this country has never even stepped foot here.

3. dogville (2003). von trier takes chances on screen that nobody else is willing to take, and he is brilliant enough to know that they will work. who could have possibly imagined that a two and a half hour film that takes place entirely on an empty soundstage would be so completely engaging?

2. requiem for a dream (2000). the film that brought me to darren aronofsky and brought me back to jennifer connelly. probably the best film ever made in the bloated drug-addiction genre.

1. amores perros (2000). i have been happy to see this often forgotten movie crop up on a few critics' decade top ten lists. one of the best films ever made. period.
Luke and John talk about movies

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