Best (and Worst) of the Decade

I love making end-of-year lists, but I’ve decided to forego drawing up a “Best of 2009” list, at least for now. I’ve seen far too few of the films that are getting attention this year. Living in the sticks as I (proudly) do means, among other things, I only see small-release (i.e., good) films weeks after release, on DVD/streaming, or when I travel to larger cities.

Instead, I offer up 30 films that meant something to me over the past decade…. as well as a few other lists.

I make no claim that the thirty films listed immediately below are the “best” films of the decade. These are the films that meant the most to me, either because they were fabulously entertaining, deeply moving, unforgettably thought-provoking, personally inspiring, or professionally inspiring to me as a filmmaker. In some cases, a film might have been all of these things.

Top 30 of 2000-2009 (chronological, then alphabetical order):
Beau Travail (Denis, 2000)
Croupier (Hodge, 2000)
Chuck and Buck (Arteta, 2000)
The Gleaners and I (Varda, 2000)
Yi Yi (Yang, 2000)
Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, 2001)
The Poor and Hungry (Brewer, 2001)
About a Boy (Weitz Brothers, 2002)
Adaptation (Jonze, 2002)
Far From Heaven (Haynes, 2002)
Raising Victor Vargas (Sollett, 2002)
Ten (Kiarostami, 2002)
To Be and To Have (Philibert, 2002)
Capturing the Friedmans (Jarecki, 2003)
The School of Rock (Linklater, 2003)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2004)
Sideways (Payne, 2004)
War (Mahaffy, 2004)
I am a Sex Addict (Zahedi, 2005)
The Puffy Chair (Duplass Bros., 2005)
Dance Party USA (Katz, 2006)
LOL (Swanberg, 2006)
Pan’s Labyrinth (del Toro, 2006)
Frownland (Bronstein, 2007)
Ratatouille (Bird, 2007)
There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)
Zodiac (Fincher, 2007)
The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008)
The Wrestler (Aronofsky, 2008)
St. Nick (Lowery, 2009)

+ 2 BBC documentaries (These aren’t films, but I watched them under film-like circumstances and without interruption.)
Planet Earth (multiple directors/BBC, 2006)
The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom (Curtis/BBC, 2007)

In addition to the films listed above, here are just a few of the acclaimed films from the past decade that I’ve not seen — many of which sit next to my DVD player. I expect that after watching these more than a few will wind up on an amended version of the list above:

In the Mood for Love, Platform, Syndromes and a Century, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, In Praise of Love, The Son, Kings and Queen, Werckmeister Harmonies, Waltz with Bashir, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, Tropical Malady. Making this list has pushed me to make watching these films a priority.

From 2000 to 2009 I saw dozens of great films made before 2000 for the first time. Here are a mere half dozen that meant the most to me:

Ruggles of Red Gap (McCarey, 1935)
Winter Light (Bergman, 1962)
The Parallax View (Pakula, 1974)
The Whole Shootin’ Match (Pennell, 1978)
The Elephant Man (Lynch, 1981)
Little Dieter Needs to Fly (Herzog, 1997)

I also saw a lot of movies that I disliked a lot or even hated. Listing the ones that everyone else thinks are trash isn’t worth the effort, so here are my least favorite acclaimed films — the “Bottom 10,” as it were:

Ghost World (Zwigoff, 2001)
What Time is it There (Tsai, 2001)
Gangs of New York (Scorsese, 2002)
Finding Nemo (Stanton, 2003)
The Life Aquatic (Anderson, 2004)
Last Days (Van Sant, 2005)
Little Miss Sunshine (Dayton and Faris, 2006)
Man on Wire (Marsh, 2008)
Slumdog Millionaire (Boyle, 2008)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Butthole (Fincher, 2008)

And, finally, in case you were wondering, here are my two favorite films produced from 2000-2009: Yi Yi and Mulholland Dr.

5 Responses to “Best (and Worst) of the Decade”

  1. Alan Gratz Says:

    I think you have a typo in your Bottom 10 list, in the last film listed.

    Or maybe not.

  2. JM Says:

    Out of curiosity, what did you not like about Man on Wire?

    Also, I like how you did your top 30 list – what a film means to you vs ‘the best’, which is very subjective as well but carries a certain authorial haughtiness to it.

    The only detriment to these end of yr/decade lists is a lengthening of my dvd queue on Netflix.

  3. mattdonaghy Says:

    After reading the list I got really excited because I remembered I wanted to see “War” but Netflix doesn’t have it. Shit.

  4. sZe Says:

    I notice no Lars von Trier and out of curiosity am compelled to ask your stance on him.

  5. Paul Says:

    @ Alan: Typo is intentional. Using infantile (pun intended, if you’ve seen the movie) humor to spoof the film’s title was about the only enjoyment I got from this film.

    @ JM: Glad you liked my take on things. Since you asked, I thought “Man on Wire” had the potential to talk about loss felt by 9/11 in a subtle, completely subtextual way, but most of that was overwhelmed, I thought, by it’s haigographic treatment of Philippe Petit & Co.

    @ SaraZia: I find von Trier’s movies manipulative and cynical with their sentiment. If his public persona wasn’t that of a provocateur and self-promoter, it’s possible I might feel otherwise.

    Sorry, folks — that’s a lot of negativity! De gustibus non est disputandum.