TOP 20 MOVIES (2000-2009)
Here’s the thing, I was asked to comprise a list of the best movies in the last decade. It’s so hard to say no to pemora – in English or Spanish – but it was nearly possible to pick a Top 5 and even more impossible is trying to rank these in any particular order. So, I picked 20 films and opted to place them in completely random order; and because I am currently engaged in finally establishing some semblance of a life (one that will pay the bills for me to continue to see these movies), please accept the following microwave synopses in lieu of my customary loquacity.
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Screenplay by Christopher Nolan
Starring Guy Pearce, Carrie Anne Moss, and Joe Pantaliano.
Memento is one of the most incredible and original pieces of storytelling I have ever seen (and a brother has seen A LOT of flicks). Pearce’s character suffers from the wildest sense of short-term memory loss imaginable. Something tragic has happened and he’s trying to figure out what the hell happened by piecing together the story with tidbits of information tatted all over him and a handful of Polaroids (those are pictures, for you youngins out there on the interwwebs). Fortunately for Nolan, I’m not the one who had to sell the flick. Trust me, if you like movies that compel you to pay attention to the details and if you enjoy watching characters develop in small revelations leading up to an orgasmic conclusion… this is your flick (minus the orgasmic part; seriously, no movie’s THAT good – unless of course the soundtrack is by Luke or the Bowchicabow Wahs.)
2) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Directed by Michael Gondry
Written by Charlei Kaufman, Michael Gondry, and Pierre Bismuth
Starring Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, and Tom Wilkinson
Unlike Memento, Jim Carrey’s character is undergoing a procedure to erase the memory of a failed relationship. I hate love stories. I mean, HATE all that lovey dovey contrived crap that I’ve been forced to accept as “date” movies over the last 15-20 years of my dating career. But I liked this movie a lot. It was dope without being dopey. I didn’t even have a mini-vomit watching Carrey as he began to discover that erasing the memory of his ex is harder than he thought given how much the prospect of the absence of her made his heart grow fonder. How BLAH it seems to read, but how frackin engaging this movie actually was. It’s not 27 Dresses, All About Steve, or any of that other cinematic feces that passes for date flicks. This is a movie even I can cosign. That’s a big deal, fellas. Rent it.
3) Passion of the Christ
Directed by Mel Gibson
Screenplay by Benedict Fitzgerald, Mel Gibson and… well, kinda God (if He were in the habit of writing screenplays)
Starring Jim Caviezel and Monica (thank God she was playing Mary Magdelene, so I didn’t feel so bad thinking the thoughts I had thunk) Bellucci.
You ever hear the story about Jesus? Do Christmas and Easter ring a bell? No? Then you need to bring your ass to church, fool. Well, if you are familiar with the story, this one focuses on the Easter part. Hard to watch, but so incredibly well done; notwithstanding the anti-Semitic rants of a drunken Mad Max.
4) Slumdog Millionaire
Directed by Danny Boyle & Loveleen Tanden
Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy (but here, you have to give credit to the cat who wrote the novel, Vikas Swarup).
Starring Frieda Pinto, Dev Patel, and Anil Kapoor.
Basically, it’s another love story with a twist that shockingly makes my list. Hmmm, maybe I do have a heart… CRAP! Let me check… Nope. Nada. Cool. I just liked the scenery or something (by scenery of course I mean Freida Pinto). Actually, this was about a boy and a girl finding each other, growing up hard, losing each other and finding each other again; but I didn’t really care much for the love story aspect of it. I liked the way they told the story. It’s a rags to riches, hardship to triumph story wrapped up in a more hardship. It’s an emotional rollercoaster without the tears (not that I would know, the last time I cried in a movie, I was… I was… well, let’s just say, they didn’t have to kill Mufasa). This is movie lacked any incredible performances, but made up for it with its enthralling story. Still, as good as this movie is, I will not be watching it again any time soon.
5) There Will be Blood
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson (novel by Uptown Sinclair)
Starring Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano
Now this is a gangster story. None of that love business. It’s a story about an oil tycoon and his unwavering pursuit of the black gold. Lewis plays a man obsessed with owning it all, friends, family, and morality be damned. The first couple of minutes, I don’t remember them uttering a word but drawing you into the story, which is awesome. I happen to love words. I think have all the awe and power of magic and music combined and multiplied, but some of the things done on screen in this movie without one word being uttered (what some call the “space between”) is so fresh, I had no choice but to include this movie on the list of best movies of the decade. Not to mention, Daniel Day Lewis should start an acting school for people like Marky Mark and Tom Cruise.
Directed by Mike Nichols
Written by Patrick Marber
Starring Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen and Jude Law
This is the anti-thesis of a love story. Now, we’re talking. Dysfunction is the spice of life. Here you have strangers who become two separate couples that end up having their lives intertwine (among other things). This is a character driven, dialogue intensive picture with three of the best in the business (Jude Law’s an aight actor, but he’s no Daniel Day Lewis, Clive Owen, or Johnny Depp, now is he?). The episodic mental stability and mercurial passion of these four people is so dramatic without being contrived that you have to love hating them… all. While you feel bad for one of them at any particular time, you also dislike them at another. It’s one of my absolute favorite flicks in the last 20 years, much less 10.
7) The Dark Knight
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan
Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger (RIP), Aaron Eckhart, and Gary Oldman
Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker was worth the price of admission. I saw this movie twice in the theater. Very high praise in this economy. Not only did the Nolan’s do an awesome job replacing the Cardboard Katie Holmes, but they outdid the writing on the acclaimed Batman Begins (yes, I’m the one who “acclaimed” it, but that’s the only acclaim important in something written by me, so…). I had concerns when I found out Ledger would be reprising a role played so coolly by Jack Nicholson in the first movie, but Ledger and Bale actually made me blank for a minute on who originally played Batman and the Joker in the 90s version.
Directed by James Cameron
Written by James Cameron
Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi and Michelle Rodriguez
Have you heard anything about this little indy film? I don’t know how the little known James Cameron managed to not get noticed before now. Jake Sully (Worthington), a paraplegic marine is given a chance to regain the use of his legs. His mission – take over for his dead twin brother in the Avatar program, designed to win the hearts and minds of the native population on a planet rich in “unobtainium” – if you skip past the sickeningly stupid name of the valuable material “unobtainium” you will still enjoy this movie. Sure, long and short of the story… white dude saves the planet of the blue dudes by becoming one of them and bagging the baddest blue chick on the planet. It’s just like the Smurfs, except they’re about a thousand more smurfettes and all the smurfs are 10 feet tall athletic and half nekkid. Notwithstanding any of that, James Cameron is the effing man. This is THE most spectacular visual experience I have ever had in the movie theater. Bar none. If you fail to see this in 3D at an IMAX theater, you are missing out on the full breadth of the experience. I’ve never seen a movie that made me feel like I was immersed in it before. It’s over 2.5 hours long and you can do it with out a case of the aflattassitis (unless of course you were born with that, the movie can’t work miracles).
9) House of Sand and Fog
Directed by Vadim Perelman
Screenplay by Sean Lawrence Otto and Vadim Perelman
Starring Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connelly, Navi Rawat, and Shohreh Aghdashloo
Let me say this off top…Navi Rawat is kinda hot (I don’t even remember her role in the flick, but whatevah – she makes another of my lists) and I love Shohreh Aghdashloo. She’s dope. I wish we would have found her sooner in the States. Also, Fog is one Sir Ben Kingsley’s last good roles – excluding his guest appearance on the Sopranos. It seems like the other stuff he does these days is all about that dollar (The Last Legion, BloodRayne, The Love Guru – I rest my case) maybe he’s got Charles Barkley-esque gambling habits or something. House of Sand and Fog is the story of a military man (Kinglsey) seeking to regain some semblance of the prominence he left in his native country of Iran, here in the U.S. and the wrongful albeit mistaken displacement of a woman from the home she inherited from her parents. The home is sold at auction to Kingsley. He ends up purchasing the home and all the following drama in the fight for each of them to try and keep what they both believe rightfully belongs to them. As frakking depressing as this movie is, it was still one of the best movies I’ve seen in ages. Get your Sancerre and cheesecake ready. You will need a pick me up after watching it, but you will not be able turn your eyes away from the screen.
10) Pan’s Labyrinth
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Ivana Baquero, Maribel Verdu, Sergi Lopez and Doug Jones.
Doug Jones? Really? Lopez, Baquero, Verdu, del Toro, and Doug Jones. Anyway, it was awesome. If you don’t know Guillermo del Toro, go rent some of his other work (Cronos & Hellboy – visually outstanding). Sergi Lopez plays Captian Vidal, one of the best villains in moving pictures since Darth Vader. It’s hard to explain this one. It’s about the imagination of a young girl who comes to join her ailing mother and her mother’s new husband. The little girl is at the mercy of her new step father who happens to be an unbelievably ruthless bastard in the Spanish Army (in ye olden fascist times) – let’s call him... Captain Awesome (because he’s not, it’s like calling a big guy “Tiny”). I know, I know… you should definitely watch this one when you’re ready to perk things up around the house maybe on Christmas or Thanksgiving. It’s like the Hangover in fascist Spain instead of Vegas.
11) Kill Bill 1&2
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, and David Carradine.
Uma plays the Bride. She’s super pregnant and on the day of her wedding rehearsal, she and the entire wedding party is gunned down by Bill and his assassins. She gets shot in the damned head and LIVES. That’s a problem. Well, for Bill it is – and for everybody else connected to the entire massacre. Hands down, Kill Bill is the best revenge film ever made. And, no, I am not breaking any rules. It was originally one film but studios decided that the dumb ass audiences couldn’t handle a film like this being over 3 hours long. What ever happened to intermission?
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by David Franzoni
Starring Russell Crowe, Joaquim Phoenix, Djimon Hounsou, and Richard Harris
Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife… in this life or the next, he will have his vengeance. Turns out it was this life. Crowe plays the Roman Army’s greatest general, Maximus, but when the Emperor dies under… questionable circumstances, he is ordered killed but ends up sold into slavery as a gladiator. He finds his way back to the new emperor (who ordered Maximus, his wife and his child to be murdered). Ridley Scott knows how to make a movie. The only negative thought I had about this movie was the last 30-45 seconds. Aside from that, it was definitely one of the best movies made in the decade. The action sequences coupled with the talent of Crowe and Phoenix… good casting, good writing, and good acting usually leads to a very good movie.
13) Casino Royale
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher Nolan
Starring Judi Dench, Daniel Craig, Eva Green, and Jeffrey Wright
It’s the new Bond. James Bond… with more gravitas and less finesse than any of his predecessors. Daniel Craig is the new Bond (replacing Pierce Brosnan, who was second only to Connery – in my book). The Bond franchise decided to go backwards in order to move ahead. This is the birth of Bond. It’s how he becomes 007. What he lacks in grace and finesse, he makes up for in… hmmm… nothing. He doesn’t even try to make up for it. He is completely unapologetic in his genesis. He’s brash and rakish and doesn’t give a damn. Like an MI-6 version of O-Dog (from Menace to Society). This installation of Bond finds him developing some of the traits and habits we’ve come accustomed to him having in the last 40-odd years or so. Sure, it drags for a few minutes here and there, but the initial action sequence alone is worth sitting through the next 2 hours and change.
14) The Departed
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by William Monahan & Alan Mak
Leonarod DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Vera Farmiga, Jack Nicholson and Martin Sheen
Based on the original movie Infernal Affairs, this movie takes the original’s production quality up about 50,000 notches. Two undercover cops; one as a criminal the other as a cop – and both trying to figure out who the other is, before it’s too late. It’s a race against time and circumstances. The ending in Infernal Affairs (thanks, J Perry for referring this one) was way more hard core than its Americanized counterpart. Nevertheless, the Departed was an awesome movie and worth watching.
15) A Beautiful Mind
Directed by Ron Howard
Screenplay by Akiva Goldsman
Starring Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, and Jennifer Connelly
Nash (Crowe), a genius mathematician done lost his ever-loving mind. It has some of the same elements as a movie like the Sixth Sense. You don’t know how much of it is real and how much of it is imagined. Neither does he. But it’s a heck of a story to watch develop and it may be Russell Crowe’s most impressive performance yet; sure as hell is Jennifer Connelly’s (I will choose to forget movies like the Hulk and The Day the Earth Stood Still – Pepe le PEW them joints stunk up the place).
16) 40-Year Old Virgin
Directed by Judd Apatow
Written by Judd Apatow and Steve Carell
Starring Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch, and Catherine Keener
Durh! The name speaks for itself. Dude is 40 and a virgin. Let this be a lesson for the young boys out there. Do not rush to have sex. If you wait until you are forty (and she is) then you TOO can have visions of candy canes and psychedelic climaxes when you finally do. Never be pressured. Lesson Number Two: Completely unrelated to the movie, young guys… stay away from my niece, god daughter, and ALL of my little cousins or I will not hesitate to quite literally bust a cap in you’re a$$ - regardless of your age. If you think I’m playing, you clearly do not know me. More importantly, you do not want to get to know me. Keep it in your pants until your 40 like Steve Carell did. And he’s rich and famous now. See. That could be you, too. Do the right thing, punks. Oh yeah, the movie is hilarious. Check it out.
17) Star Trek
Directed by JJ Abrams
Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Zoë Saldana (ex baby mama – I thought it would never happen either, but I’m on to the next one. Holla at me Monica Raymund. I’m around. Ask about me.)
It’s the beginning of the story. How Kirk, Spock, Uhura, McCoy and the rest of the gang took over as the senior crew on the fabled starship Enterprise. For the non-sci fi fans, this movie re-launches a franchise that was seriously on life support after the under appreciated last two series (Voyager and Enterprise – good stuff)that didn’t manage to last long enough to garner interest in a major motion picture. This is a fun film that really doesn’t require you to be a fan or to know anything about anything. For that reason, it makes the list. It is action packed and doesn’t take itself seriously enough for me to pick apart the glaring problems with some portions of the story line. Not to mention, there’s a special guest appearance by Leonard Nimoy. Leonard Nimoy! The guy that had people thinking there really was a way to make people faint if you apply the proper Vulcan nerve pinch… or was that just me?
18) Little Miss Sunshine
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Written by Michael Arndt
Starring Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collete, Abagail Breslin, Paul Dano and Alan Arkin
A truly dysfunctional family makes their way cross country to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant for the baby of the family. You never see what her talent is until the end, but you know she’s working on it with her crazy inappropriate grandpa. It is pure comedy and feel good dysfunctional film of the decade.
19) Malcolm X
Directed by Spike Lee
Screenplay by Arnold Perl & Spike Lee
Starring Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Delroy Lindo, and Al Freeman, Jr.
Spike Lee’s best movie ever. I liked Mo Better Blues, School Daze, what have you, but this was his magnum opus. He may never do a movie better or more important than Malcolm X. No disrespect, but this was better than the best parts of all his other movies rolled up into one. It’s the story of Malcolm X. If you don’t know who he his, may I suggest the following - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlKL_EpnSp8
BTW: THIS is the movie Denzel should have got his Best Actor Oscar for – not Training Day. He straight channeled Malcolm X down to the voice and intonations.
20) Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Director Ang Lee, (more importantly, Yuen Wo Ping is the fight choreographer)
Screenplay by Hui Ling Wang, James Schamus, and Kuo Jung Tsai
Starring Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat, and Ziyi Zhang
They need to create a term for people you could watch boil water and be interested in them doing it – that’s Ziyi Zhang; because onscreen she’s the kind you don’t ever want to take your eyes off of for any appreciable period of time (maybe “ziyistic” – I like that, for now). Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is about kung fu masters tracking down a notorious criminal and the stolen famed sword of one of the greatest warriors in China. Ang Lee’s an awesome cinematographer, but this may be the best thing he’s ever done. The heavy lifting that takes this out of the realm of “you killed my teacher!” movies is done by the masterful fight choreography of Yuen Wo Ping (the Matrix, Fearless, Kill Bill). He is the truth. If you don’t like action movies, no worries – it’s better than that. If you don’t like love stories, no worries – it’s better than that. If you don’t like reading subtitles… you… might be a redneck. I’m impressed even you got this far. Kudos, my friend. Now, go buy yourself some Natty Ice and rest your weary brain.
There you have it. Sure other movies could’ve legitimately made the list, but they didn’t make my list. Doubt, Gangs of New York, Sin City, effin’ awesome, applaud’em… but nope. Some stuff has to be left out, right? The good news is there’s room for debate; I encourage you to do so.