When it comes to movies, the last decade gave us pirates, robots, zombies and the return of Adam Sandler as a 'serious actor.' Not to mention a little movie you may have heard of about folks looking for a certain piece of pretty jewelery. As the 00s wind down, it's clear that some movies are bound to take top honors as the best films of the decade, while others are destined for the discount DVD bin at your local Longs.
- The best film of the decade wasn’t nominated for any Oscars, which we think says a lot more about the Oscars than it does about Punch Drunk Love. After a trio of excellent but increasingly Altman-esque films, Paul Thomas Anderson defied expectations by making an Adam Sandler "comedy" about a pathetic and unloved man with anger issues gradually coming out of his shell as the result of a blackmail plot, a chocolate pudding contest, and the world’s sweetest woman. Some interpretations think aliens are at involved as well. Anderson’s unique use of color and pacing, impeccably off-putting comedic timing, and bizarre music choices (the soundtrack to "Popeye" has never been so haunting) make Punch Drunk Love the most unique American film of the decade… a bravura display of unexpected storytelling heights and the finest quality of showmanship. Punch Drunk Love’s been at the top of this list since it was released in 2002, and nothing has come close since.
- This summer, Transformers 2 opened to atrocious reviews, which were in turn met by dismissive comments about how blockbuster entertainment isn’t expected to be "good." How quickly we forget. For three years in a row, director Peter Jackson (who had never even directed an action film before) brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s supposedly unfilmable trilogy to life with beauty, excitement and class. Anchored by pitch-perfect performances by Sir Ian McKellan, that kid from "Flipper," that kid from "Rudy," and many more, and filled to the brim with groundbreaking (and often low-tech) visual effects from the previously unknown Weta Workshop, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy set a new standard for quality big budget filmmaking. (The uncut version of The Two Towers is our favorite.) Some argue that The Return of the King takes too long to end, and they’d be right if The Return of the King was a single film. It’s not… It’s the last act of an over nine-hour epic that needs just as long to wrap up as it did to get going in the first place.
- No stranger to unusual love stories (The Chungking Express is practically a textbook on the subject), director Wong Kar-wai nevertheless crafted his finest film in In the Mood for Love, starring two of cinema’s finest actors – Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung – as married neighbors who begin to suspect that their respective spouses are sleeping with each other. Drawn together by their loneliness and a little bit of shame, they drift through Wong Kar-wai’s impeccable cinematography, unwilling to confess that they’re falling love. So beautiful, and so sad, that it’s impossible to look away.
- A few directors have tried making films about 9/11 – Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Uwe Boll – but all of them suffered from overpowering points of view. (Well, not Uwe Boll’s…) Paul Greengrass directed the harrowing and tragic tale of United 93 – the hijacked plan that was retaken by its passengers and crashed before reaching its target – without any hint of pretension of melodrama. The result is terrifying, watching people just like ourselves gradually realize that the unthinkable has occurred, and that something equally unthinkable now has to be done. It’s that rare kind of film that is so good you’ll only want to watch it once.