Before we jump into this, let it be known that as I was running through my favorite movies of the decade I discovered that I left out some of my favorite scenes from the decade in yesterday's "Top Scenes" list. Crucial ones, too. They are noted below and deserve as high accord as you give the scenes from the actual list. So it is written, so it shall be done.
I was able to whittle the list down to 25 rather easily. I was also able to order the "bottom" 15 and get a solid Top 10. Numbers one through three were all but predetermined. But movies 4 through 10 was just a huge clusterfuck. I just thought you should know that.
And one last thing. I've been reading a lot of these decade-end lists and one thing is consistent in all of them: there are no comedies allowed. Which I think is total bullshit. When I'm ranking the movies I'm thinking of "what will I be watching in five years?" Take Gladiator. Is it a good movie? Sure. How many times am I going to want to watch it in my life, twice? Well, then it's probably not a movie I'd want to take with me to a desert island. And in that case, it doesn't belong on a Top Movie list. Comedies always get short shrift from critics, when it is about 1000 times harder to make a good, consistently funny comedy than it is some drama about a child getting kidnapped or something. So comedies get a special boost in my rankings.
So, here are my favorite 25 movies of the decade. Commentary only where absolutely necessary.
25. Street Fight
23. In America
22. Bowling for Columbine
This was and is Michael Moore's only non-ideological movie. It's his only movie where he asks questions rather than attempts to give answers. It's his only movie where he seems to make a genuine attempt at documentary filmmaking instead of just asking to see the CEOs of major corporations (ok, so he does that in Bowling for Columbine as well). In trying to figure out why the US has so many gun-related fatalities, he notes that Canada has more guns and looser gun laws, Japan has more violent video games, and Germany has a more violent past: so why are Americans so predisposed to gun violence? He doesn't answer it directly. It's his only thought-provoking movie as opposed to other Michael Moore joints, which are pretty much thought-squelching movies.
21. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
20. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
The first comedy of the list. Think of the way that our generation had Adam Sandler's Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. Those movies became a part of our lexicon. I quote from those movies without even realizing it. And the same thing is happening with Anchorman. In five year, I'll still be watching and quoting this movie. As far as comedies go, the decade belonged to Will Ferrell.
19. The Squid and the Whale
Here's the first neglected Scene of the Decade:
18. Control Room
17. Garden State
Sure, now it's fun to make fun of Natalie Portman's cringe-inducing lines ("You're in it right now."), and now that we've seen how Zach Braff's movie career has turned out, Garden State appears retroactively lame. But try to remember the first time you saw it, possibly in the theater. It was an amazing work. When you consider this was Braff's directorial debut, it begs the question: what happened?
16. Lost in Translation
15. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
14. Waiting for Guffman
13. Word Play
Bonus points are definitely worthy when you make a rather ordinary subject matter engaging and riveting. See also, American Splendor (below). Didn't quite work as well for the movie Helvetica. I mean, making the NY Times crossword puzzle is interesting is one thing, but making a font interesting is damn near impossible.
12.There Will Be Blood
11. O Brother, Where Art Thou
I haven't seen Up in the Air yet, but everything I've read suggests that George Clooney's two best roles of his career bookend this decade (I also read somewhere that his best performance of the year was his voice over on Fantastic Mr. Fox, but you get enough Wes Anderson gushing on this blog already).
And now, the top 10.
10. 28 Days Later
I wonder if 30 years from now, we'll be studying Danny Boyle's work the way we do with Stanley Kubrick now. This guy's got some incredible directorial chops. And to think, my least favorite movie of his - which was still excellent, by the way - won him Best Director. I mean, Trainspotting, Millions (below), 28 Days Later, and Slumdog Millionare. That's a career's worth of great movies right there. And what's remarkable is how distinct each movie is. None of them are even in the same genre. That's what makes Danny Boyle's future so interesting. We have no idea what we're getting.
The first time me and Mrs. Supercomputer saw this at a friend's house we thought it was so damn hilarious we watched it again right then and there. Of all the movies on this list, I've probably seen this one more times than any other, save one. And it still kills me. It's probably my absolute favorite Will Ferrell role.
8. Children of Men
The second Danny Boyle film of the Top 10. This movie appeared to get little fanfare in the US. I am 100% convinced if everyone didn't have European accents and if George Clooney starred as the dad it would have won 10 Oscars. Thankfully they didnt, he didn't, and it didn't.
6. Crouching Tiger / Hidden Dragon
The floodgates opened after CT/HD came out. House of Flying Daggers and Hero were both released in the US, and it quickly became parodied in Kung Fu Hustle and the like. It was certainly like nothing we had ever seen before. Another neglected Scene of the Decade was the nighttime fight/chase scene near the beginning of the movie. That's the first time we are introduced to the amazing supernatural abilities of thecharacters.
4. The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert McNamara
The most riveting documentary of the decade consisted simply of an interview with Robert McNamara about events that had happened several decades ago. Errol Morris edits the interview so skillfully and McNamara is just such a fascinating subject that it keeps us on the edge of our seat. It should be required viewing for all of humanity.
3. American Splendor
The most egregious neglected scene of the decade was inspired by the above comic in which Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar asks where all these other Harvey Pekars come from. It was probably one of my favorite 5 scenes of the decade and somehow I just plum forgot it. I wish I could find it on youtube, but instead you'll just have to rent it. The ability to make an entire feature length film - not to mention an entire comic book series - about one "average" individual is nothing short of incredible.
2. Punch Drunk Love
It's clearly the "least PT Anderson-ish" of all the PT Anderson movies. It almost comes off as a lark, like something Anderson dreamed up in his sleep one night and got to shooting the next day. But it's my favorite PT Anderson movie, and easily the most subdued. There aren't any frogs falling from the sky or holy men being beaten to death by a bowling pin in this one. Just a lot of Healthy Choice pudding.
1. The Royal Tenenbaums
My other absolutely egregious omission of Scenes of the Decade:
I've already gone on about this movie before on this here blog so I won't do it again.
Here are the final numbers: Five documentaries. One fake documentary. Three and a half comedies (depending on whether or not you consider Royal Tenenbaums a comedy or not). Four movies made by someone with the last name Anderson, two by the last name of Boyle. Two foreign language films. And three English-but-European language films. And several hours spent debating about what order to put movies 4 through 10 in.