Sunday, January 3, 2010

Love & Squalor's 100 Most Influential of the Decade Pt. 2, 11-21

Requiem for a Dream (2000): I don't think I've met a single person who wasn't impacted by this film. Casual viewers were thrown by its emotional intensity. Cinephiles walked away with a fanatic new appreciation for the artistry of Darren Aronofsky. All those montages, those haunting shots, those are the things that trigger imitation. Requiem is a harrowing tale of addiction and startling desperation, each actor from Ellen Burstyn to Marlon Wayans plays a memorable role in what is arguably one of the most horrifically heavy dramas of the decade.
Snatch (2000): With Snatch, Guy Ritchie took Tarantino's postmodern take on the crime film and supercharged it for a generation raised 100% on fast cuts and music videos. All style, little substance, Snatch is a dizzying, rollicking good time that feels like its headed somewhere few others have dared to tread. It's essentially a heist film that couldn't care less about the heist and instead uses its swiped diamond to trigger a chain reaction of relentless activity. It may not be a cinematic masterwork, but I would argue that we'll be seeing the results of its influence on a whole slew of teenage boys for years to come.(WD)
Traffic (2000): M. and I have gone back and forth on including Traffic. It's an excellent film, certainly, but it feels a little expected, more straight drama than something different. Yet, ultimately, we seemed to concede that at its birth, Traffic was not necessarily a straight, Oscar bait drama. Its format has simply become something of a norm for films during the aughts. Soderbergh's multi-perspective drug trade epic may actually be responsible for the rise of the international geopolitical commentary during the aughts, and while I personally enjoy Babel far more (don't speak, the Japanese segments are incredible), I can't escape the feeling that without Traffic movies like Babel wouldn't exist, and the studios and stars wouldn't be lining up to take chances on gritty dramas like Syriana.
The Virgin Suicides (2000): Sofia Coppola's films are like waking dreams and while it's not my favorite, her directorial debut is one to be reckoned with. The Virgin Suicides is a gorgeously realized journey into adolescence that feels weightless in spite of the deep dark pit of emotion it drags along with it. There's a strange disconnect between what we see and what we understand, but Coppola speaks volumes through the power and beauty of her images, and if you're attuned to it, each of her films can be a thoroughly rewarding experience. (WD)
Wonder Boys (2000): For the prose writing academics of the world, this film is a comedy par excellence. Adapted from Michael Chabon's novel of the same title, Wonder Boys is a film about college life from the perspective of a professional. Michael Douglas puts in what for me counts as just about his only really worthwhile performance this decade as Grady Tripp, an English professor struggling to stay relevant in the literary world at the expense of his personal life. The film does a phenomenal job evoking the feel of a sort of liberal arts campus experience, but twists the perspective so that instead of dealing with the antics of rapidly maturing students, we are given college from the angle of those who choose to stay and inhabit that world long after the 4-years are up. Every time I watch it it's like seeing it for the first time and though I know what's coming I feel at home in its mundane chaos. This is a smart work that actually feels like reading a really good short story that has been built to last.(WD)

Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulain (2001): Anyone who questions the inclusion of Amelie on a list of the best films of the decade is, simply put, not someone who should be trusted in any way, shape, or form, but you should be particularly wary of them if they attempt to recommend a film to you. This film is a wondrous delight from beginning to end. The characters are richly drawn, the imagery the film evokes transforms Paris into the magical city it is in the heart of every Francophile, Audrey Tautou's brand of elfish mischief is one that unites optimists and stone-cold cynics alike. With Amelie, Jean-Pierre Jeunet sells you a technically stunning art film as a feel-good-movie, and if you're dissatisfied, there's basically no hope for you. (WD)
Bridget Jones' Diary (2001): Oh, that's right, we went there. Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones series spawned a whole chick-lit movement that has proven to be something of a literary nightmare, but the original product stands as an iconic representation of turn of the century femininity (some would argue, perhaps, stereotyping). While I can honestly say I was no great fan of the novel, the film adaptation is another story entirely. Renee Zellweger puts in one of her best performances as our deliriously awkward, slightly overweight heroine, and the film escapes generic rom com disposability by being legitimately comedic without succumbing too readily to cute & cloying (unfortunately, the sequel failed in both respects). It's a slightly smarter breed than most, and Bridget earns her spot on our list for being the poster child representation of the Hollywood romantic comedy in the aughts.(WD)
The Devil's Backbone (2001): Before the sleeper success of Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro earned his stripes (and perhaps his budget) with this film. Seeing it now, it feels like a prototype for what has become something of a Spanish horror sub-genre. The beauty of del Toro's films, and what makes them something more than mere ghost story, horror film, or creature feature, is in the tragedy. Devil's Backbone sits heavy because of the breadth of its emotional capacity. It's a haunting film, not necessarily because of the ghosts. Plus, whatever you may want to say about del Toro, he's not afraid to go ahead and kill the kid in the picture. (WD)
Donnie Darko (2001): Love it or hate it, there's little doubt that Donnie Darko hasn't left its mark on the cinematic consciousness of a full generation. Its cult audience has been growing steadily for the past 8 years and isn't very likely to slow down any time soon. Sure, as a Darko fan its been a tough road watching 17-year olds sit where i once sat and wax metaphysical, but we all have to start somewhere. I'm not going to lie and pretend that I'm over the film and am all too cool for school and such, Donnie Darko is a seriously beautiful film. It's moody, atmospheric and utterly magnetic. The free-associative logic of its magic realism is exciting, and as it bends towards science fiction and lunacy it creates a stunningly rendered self-importance for its own teen angst. Watching it always shakes me and brings me back to a place of memory. This is what being a teenager felt like. Without the body count, sure, but with the gravitas.(WD)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001): All hail the truly original rock musical! There aren't many. Think about it. It's a rare breed, and amongst them, Hedwig is a rock musical masterwork. When I was 17 or 18, i sought this movie out lured by the promise of a few of my favorite things glitter, glam rock, and drag. What I found was so much more. Hedwig has its camp moments, but on the whole it's a remarkably brainy (and gutsy) delving into identity and the definitions of love and gender. Using as much Plato as Bowie, John Cameron Mitchell shows us something visually striking, intellectually stimulating, visceral, and (at the end of the day) quite simply as rocking as it appears to be at first glance. Take no prisoners, make no compromises, sit high on the throne of rare cinematic gems. (WD)
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001/2002/2003): First, I'm going to argue that it's not cheating to lump three films into one place setting when the films follow essentially one large narrative arc. Then, I'm going to support that argument by telling you that I haven't met many LOTR fans who are content with watching just one of the films. No, this is a series. You watch one, you watch them all. 11 hours, no messing around, no cutting out bits and pieces for easy consumption. This is a beautiful, no expense spared, sprawling epic that can easily rate as one of the finest fantasy films and adaptations perhaps of all time. It may not be your cup of tea, but it is a phenomenal accomplishment that will undoubtedly endure. (WD)

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