Top 50 Films Of The Decade : 10-19
19. The Brother’s Bloom (2008)
Writer/Director Rian Johnsonâ€™s follow-up to the marvelous ”Brick” is a bit like a quiche â€“ mightnâ€™t look like much on the outside, but inside its absolutely delicious.
Itâ€™s uncommon for all the elements of a film to come together â€“ performances, story, direction, composition, costume, location, writing, editing, lighting, sound â€“ but in the case of ”The Brothers Bloom” they most certainly do. Hereâ€™s a film thatâ€™s even smarter than itâ€™s ingeniously deceitful title.
Like ”Brick”, you wonâ€™t have to spend all your time deciphering whatâ€™s â€˜realâ€™ and whatâ€™s not about the central con either because thereâ€™s no time to think- it moves faster than a cheating husband caught out of the back of a brothel. And yeah, just as sneaky.
This is a brilliant piece of cinema â€“ in fact, Iâ€™d go so far as to say itâ€™s one of the best films of the past decade. Johnson proved with the tweenage murder-mystery ”Brick” that heâ€™s not only got a great imagination, but a knack for keeping audiences engaged and riveted, as well as constantly surprised. Bloom goes one better â€“ itâ€™s smart, itâ€™s riveting, and itâ€™s surprising, but itâ€™s also a film that fails to fit comfortably into one genre, let alone appeal to only one demographic. Itâ€™s an instant classic.
18. No Country for Old Men (2007)
I remember interviewing Josh Brolin just prior to the release of “No Country”, and it was clear that we were discussing a film we both love (that’s saying something) – that always makes for a much cozier interview. And I must say, what a terrific guy Brolin is. Very frank, down-to-earth, and lucky enough to share a hot water bottle with Diane Lane every night.
Oh, but to the film – yes, it’s absolutely brilliant! Based on Cormac McCarthy’s book, its set along the United Statesâ€“Mexico border in 1980, and story concerns an illicit drug deal gone wrong in a remote desert location. Tommy Lee Jones is the sheriff on the case, Brolin is the bandit with the drug runner’s cash, the amazing Javier Bardem is the unstoppable assassin, and Woody Harrelson is the clean-up man.
17. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2005)
If Jim Carrey had access to the kind of mind-erasing machine featured in his new film, chances are heâ€™d use it on many of the filmgoers and primarily, critics, who reacted rather inauspiciously when he first attempted versatility.
For as good as Carrey was in ”The Majestic” and ”Man on the Moon”, the box office discarded his goad to switch genres like a 4-year-old would peas.
Jim Carrey is a knockout in the Charlie Kaufman penned film. He has credibly immersed himself in the role of a scruffy-looking, rather sad nobody. In some respects, heâ€™s still quite amusing, but most of the time, heâ€™s an unlikely sad sack hero that we canâ€™t help but root for. Heâ€™s a hundred times more credible in this than he ever was in ”The Truman Show”.
In addition, the supporting roles are just splendid â€“ Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Tom Wilkinson â€“ and that probably has a lot to do, again, with Kaufmanâ€™s knack for giving â€˜everyoneâ€™ something to do, or director Michel Gondryâ€™s palpable flair for artistic filmmaking, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant their character.
It is an odd movie, and so it wonâ€™t be for everyone, but if you can bare something that’s 180 degrees from the norm and is extremely enterprising (read: creative), you will be richly rewarded.
16. Before Sunset (2004)
In a time where the most high-priced, glitzy ideas seem to be the only films that garner an audience, it’s refreshing to find a film that possesses none of the elements that satisfies the requirements of a modern-day blockbuster.
”Before Sunset”, Richard Linklater’s sequel to ”Before Sunrise” (1995) has no explosions, no heroics, no pop music soundtrack, no monstersâ€¦ Instead, it’s got two of the most level-headed characters in film in years.
Unlike the films that feature a gun-toting male protagonist or leather-adorned superhero, this is real life, and it couldn’t be more welcome.
The only difference between ”Before Sunrise” and ”Before Sunset” — besides Ethan Hawke’s newly gaunt look — is that the first film was set in a space of fourteen hours and this is set in real-time. Other than that it’s business as usual.
Their conversations are assiduous, yet brilliant (and again, real), the chemistry is again inimitable, and the locations are as beautiful as ever. Before Sunset is as un-Hollywood as a film can be. And it’s just fantastic.
You could truly spend days watching these two characters – they’ve been better fleshed-out than an open wound. It’s amazing how funny, romantic and suspenseful real life can be.
15. Juno (2007)
God I love this movie. It’s such a sweet film. But more so, it’s just really well-written (as opposed to scribe Diablo Cody’s follow-up “Jennifer’s Body”, which would likely make my ‘Worst 50 films of the decade’ list) and beautifully performed.
Ellen Page is adorable as a 16-year-old high-school junior who discovers she’s pregnant after one event in a ”chair” with her best friend, Bleeker (Michael Cera). While in the waiting room of an abortion clinic, the youngster decides to give birth but place the child with an adoptive couple. She finds one in the PennySaver personals, contacts them (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner, both great), tells her dad (the always-dependable J.K Simmons) and step-mother (Alison Janney), and carries on with school.
There’ll be no tears, just smiles with this buoyant modern-age comedy.
14. In America (2002)
Just thinking of this beautiful film near summons a drop from the eye. Directed by Jim Sheridan, this very, very, very touching drama – which I saw for the first time at the Australian Movie Convention in Queensland a few months prior to it’s local release – focuses on an immigrant Irish family’s efforts to survive in New York City, as seen through the eyes of the elder daughter. It’s loosely based on Sheridan’s own experience.
The performances (Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounsou) are amazing, but the writing (“It was as hard for Frankie to smile when the tumor was malignant as it was for my dad to cry after. But they both managed it. I’m going to switch this off now. It’s not the way I want to see Frankie any more. Do you still have a picture of me in your head? Well, that’s like the picture I want to have of Frankie. One that you can keep in your head forever. So when you go back to reality, I’ll ask Frankie to please, please let me go”) is what evokes the goosebumps.
13. Up in the Air (2009)
I don’t know whether it’s because I’d just been pink-slipped myself (The company I’d been working for for ten years had just gone into receivership, so we were all laid off. Man, what a shock to the system, that was! I had such an appreciation for those in the movie that were ‘let go’ and now how to figure out how they were going to support their families. Fortunately for me, I wound up at another company, but a lot of people – not just those in the film – aren’t so lucky) or because it’s simply a terrific movie, but one thing’s for sure director Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air” sure did strike a chord with me. It’s a gorgeous movie, in fact.
George Clooney gives, what I believe (damn you “Michael Collins” lovers!), to be the best performance of his career as a serial career-man who spends most of his life – as the title suggests – up in the air. Being married to his job means he’s lost out in other areas – like family, relationships, and having somewhere to basically call “home”. On his latest trip he’s assigned a partner, a slightly-threatening youngster (the absolutely lovely Anna Kendrick) who seemingly spells imminent doom for his career.
My full review will be up shortly, but for now, let’s just say if you’ve got a chance to see this, please do!
12. Zodiac (2007)
They really should be offering ventilators to every cinema patron who buys a ticket to David Fincherâ€™s new film because, quite frankly, ”Zodiac” leaves your breathless.
Granted, Fincherâ€™s been taking our breath away for years â€“ who can forget those torturous final minutes of 1995’s ”Seven”? We should be use to it by now and asthmatics should know to save their energy up if theyâ€™re planning on checking out his latest exercise in art.
”Zodiac” is about a famed serial killer, why shouldnâ€™t the film take our breath away? To do its job properly, it really has to, doesnâ€™t it? Itâ€™s a movie that requires audiences to be rattled to the bone and chilled to the knees if itâ€™s to hit home â€“ and it does, big time.
11. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
When James Mangold (“Walk the Line”) first announced he’d be remaking – with Eric Bana and Tom Cruise, no less – the classic Glenn Ford western “3:10 to Yuma” (1957), I – like I do when I hear of any perfectly-good film being redone – sighed. When I finally saw the film – with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe starring in the roles originally intended for Banadinovich and Mapother – I applauded…. so hard my hands bled.
Bale is terrific as the small-time rancher who agrees to hold a captured outlaw (the predictably-brilliant Russell Crowe) who’s awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma. And the screenplay, by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas (of “Wanted” fame), is gripping, tense, powerful and enriched in emotion.
10. Shopgirl (2005)
Based on the novella by Steve Martin, â€œShopgirlâ€ is an epic film in plain filmâ€™s clothing. Like walking into a Year 12 maths exam ill-equipped and totally convinced that youâ€™re going to earn yourself an F at the end of it all, but instead, breezing through it and actually walking out of that test-room with a case of the warm and fuzzies, the filmâ€™s not only welcomingly endurable but a strangely rewarding experience. Come for the lesson in love, stay for the laughs â€“ if you will.
As co-star Jason Schwartzman told me when I interviewed him in 2005, Martin didn’t merely cut-and-paste the words from his novella into a final draft document – and that’s where “Shopgirl” succeeds where other literary adaptations may have failed.
“It was the truest way to adapt that book,” says Schwartzman. “Steve adapted the essence of it, not the plot. I don’t think he sat there with the book on his left and his computer on the right. He didn’t just copy the words from the book over to the computer screen, like ‘Now, I’ve got to write in the scene where they’re having coffee,’ I think he just understood what the book was about and that’s how he did the movie. I so wanted in.”
Thereâ€™s something very real about Martinâ€™s screenplay. The characters are rich and fleshy – none of them are vile or deplorable, just tragically flawed in some respect â€“ and the definitive conclude offers something very pragmatic, whilst straying from the typical Hollywood â€˜momentâ€™. In short, you will indeed laugh, cry, cheer and smile, within the filmâ€™s fast-paced 100 minutes.