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My revised Best of the Decade in films

September 3, 2010

I recently received an email asking for my Top Ten Films of the Decade. My first thought was “I already provided this information in January.” However, my pal John Barner over at informed me of this:

I read a few of the Best of the Decades’ last year, but I was shocked because, like Y2K, everyone wanted to be a year early to end the decade, so I started my list but didn’t want to finish it until I had seen at least a few films in 2010.

Well kids, here was my previous Top 11 (I had a tie in there, so I had to add one), using the “other” decade delineation:

10. Donnie Darko (2001) – Video Planet, Kicking and Screaming’s ostensible rental house operated by Francis “Chainsaw” Gremp, would categorize this under “Psychological Thriller”.

“Donnie Darko – what kind of name is that? It’s like some sort of superhero or something.”

“What makes you think I’m not?”

9. Shaun of the Dead (2002) – According to BBC 5 Live’s Mark Kermode, this movie has aged like a fine wine – with only Zombieland invading its stranglehold of the top horror-comedy of the decade. If there was a Best Scenes category, few  would compete with where albums were used as weapons.
“Throw it!”
“Stone Roses?”
“Um, no!”
“It’s ‘Second Coming’!”

8. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) –  I was expecting to leave the theatre with several witty lines, ready to unveil during my next hootenanny with the collegiate activists that barely survived my road histrionics – the Coens’ previous effort, a little thing called The Big Lebowski, conquered our vernacular to the point where we needn’t
see the film to hear the dialogue. So, O Brother Where Art Thou?, no pressure or anything! As one would predict, my references to people who obviously are not golfers, or rugs that really tied a room together were not instantly replaced with “I’m the god-damned pater familias!” By the fourth viewing, I noticed the wonderful dialogue and
the interplay with the music. And I’ve stayed out of the “Woolsworth”, just to be safe.

7. Cidade de Deus (2002) – I think the comparisons with David Simon’s “The Wire” are apt, although a film isn’t permitted the breathing room of a sprawling mega-move of the modern cable series. As Simon moves southeast with his examination of New Orleans’ post-Katrina music scene, one can hope that he places the favelas in the on-deck circle.

6. Bubba Ho-tep (2002) – The brilliant pairing of Bruce Campbell with the late Ossie Davis was pure brilliance. There’s a cool melancholy in this film that I’ve never seen before or since. How a director can create such aesthetic, one can only guess. This is what that schlockfest The Bucket List could have – and should have – been. Who
would of thought The Force of Nature That Gave Us Ash was capable of eliciting such intense empathy as a broken man?

5. High Fidelity (2000) and Almost Famous (2000) – tie. While they were made concurrently, a back-to-back viewing in this order would reveal Almost Famous as a direct response to High Fidelity. While the two most memorable record-store clerk scenes in High Fidelity are (slight?) exaggerations, they appear to serve as cannon fodder for Almost Famous’ best lines.

Barry (Jack Black) in High Fidelity: “WHAT!? Don’t tell anyone you don’t own ‘Blonde on Blonde’, it’s gonna be okay.”

William Miller (Patrick Fugit) in Almost Famous: You guys, you’re always talking about the fans, the fans, the fans; she was your biggest fan, and you threw her away!

In a way, this customer is a fan of Barry, and he shows nothing but contempt for the poor, Jesus and Mary Chain-challenged fellow. William voices his anger for such indifference.

Barry: “Do we look like the kind of store that sells ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’? Go to the mall.”

Lester Bangs (Phil S. Hoffman): The only true currency in this bankrupt world… is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.

No explanation necessary.

I hope to make this into a bigger piece someday.

4. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) – Among great road movies, this easily claims victory for Best Offensive Title The scenery, the dialogue, the rivalry, it’s difficult not to venture into hackneyed cliché when describing this film.

3. Sideways (2004) – Alexander Payne is rarely mentioned among the contemporary greats, like the Andersons, despite a catalog of films that maintain his voice, despite their diversity in subject matter. From the inspirational Citizen Ruth to the Anti-Rushmore of Election to the “Depressing because you could totally see that happening to your dad” About Schmidt, Payne tells stories of people you most likely know, yet avoids the broad brushes often employed by hacks (even the villains have a soul). Sideways continues his tradition of spicing the more straightforward narrative scenes with a wild jolt (Election’s “and her pussy gets so wet” and About Schmidt’s…well, you probably
remember the nudity), or Miles (Paul Giamatti) furiously downing wine samples until the staff insist otherwise (“This is NOT a bar”) in Sideways. How does he reply? Holy spit-bucket, Batman!

2. American Psycho (2000) – One of my good friends created a film genre called “Fucked-up-Guy Movies”, and placed this film as its avatar. When I told her the screenplay was written by two women (Mary Harron – also the director – and Guinivere Turner), she thought I was lying. Sure, it’s based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, but Ellis had similar disdain for macho alpha-male greed culture, too. While a scathing satire of the lives of the privileged and profane, American
Psycho works because of the incredible dialogue, which may not exist in reality, but what does, if you really think about it? (Sorry, I had to quote another Ellis novel there). There are so many great scenes, many featuring hilarious etudes to mediocre music of the era (although I have to admit that the Robert Palmer Tape scene made “Simply Irresistible” rock like it never has). However, American Psycho is awesome for those moments where a few words say everything: find a fan of the film, ask them about the Cilian Rail lettering on their business card, and watch the quotes fly. One warning – a raging, naked Christian Bale, covered in blood, sprints down a hallway with a chainsaw: it’s supposed to be scary, but this is the funniest movie scene of the decade.

1. 24 Hour Party People (2002)–  Michael Winterbottom’s love letter to Manchester, the Post-punk Scene, the early-80s, and Stunt TV coincided with Joy Division revival that hit indie rock in 2002. However, to dismiss this film as simply a Factory Records biography misses so many details, most significant being the impact of Manchester being able to claim their own greatness, after hearing shite from London for so long. Steve Coogan’s Tony Wilson was the most lovable bastard since Chevy Chase in Foul Play, solving problems as fast as he created them. Screw the whole “memorable quotes” crap, and just buy the damn screenplay.

“There’s this brilliant machine at the center that’s going to bring us back down to earth. That was Manchester. That is the Hacienda. Now imagine the machine breaks. For a while, it’s even better, because you’re really flying. but then, you fall, because…nobody beats gravity.”

” The smaller the attendance the bigger the history. There were 12 people at the last supper. Half a dozen at Kitty Hawk. Archimedes was on his own in the bath.”

“F Scott Fitzgerald said that ‘In America, there are no second acts.’ Well this is Manchester – we do things a little bit differently around here.”

“Nice car, DON. Nice to see you, DON….(to his mates): I think the whole ‘Don’ thing went well, don’t you think?”

“This scene didn’t actually make it to the final cut. I’m sure it’ll be on the DVD.”

“I’m a minor player in my own life story.”

Winterbottom’s juxtapositions of music and image, such as the “Transmission” scene, are masterful. 24 Hour Party People, we will get to you for deeper analysis. Now is that actually true? Well, as Tony Wilson says, “When there is a dispute between the truth and the legend, print the legend.”

Unfortunately, you can see where my problems lie. 2000 was absolutely HUGE in my world of film. In my eyes, anyway, for films to really reach a person, they need to be regularly interacting with other film-fans, and to be at a point in their life where they are optimistic, but not still hungry for life’s greater things. 1998-2000 was the epitome of that for me. So eliminating the final year of our last millennium leaves a gaping hole in my Decade Top 10.

So after waving bye-bye, a la Paul McCartney’s “Helen Wheels”, to the following movies:

O Brother Where Art Thou?
High Fidelity
Almost Famous
American Psycho

My new top 10 is…….
10. Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly)
9. Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001, Stacy Peralta)
8. Margot at the Wedding (2007, Noah Baumbach)
7. Laurel Canyon (2002, Cholodenko – featuring Lou freakin Barlow!))
6. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright)
5. Cidade de Deus (City of God) (Fernando Meirelles)
4. Bubba Ho-tep (Don Coscarelli)
3. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron)
2. Sideways (Alexander Payne)
1. 24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom)

Honorable Mention:
The Yes Men, Anchorman, There Will Be Blood, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Squid and the Whale, Moon, Star Trek, Eastern Promises, Adventureland/Zombieland, Confederate States of America, Super High Me

Factotum; The History Boys; No Country for Old Men (I fell asleep!); the Departed; A Mighty Wind; The Aristocrats (I almost walked out, I was so bored); The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (I was expecting more energy and attitude, not a Lifetime Movie of the Week – whither David Fincher?); Burn After Reading; Bruno; Artificial Intelligence (sorry Armond White)

As for 2010, so far…

4. Get Him to the Greek (Nic Stoller)
3. Mystery Team (Dan Eckman)
2. Exit Through the Gift Shop (“Banksy”)
1. The Kids are Alright (Cholodenko)

Films that I didn’t see until 2010 that I liked:
Hannah Takes the Stairs and Alexander the Last (both in that whole “mumblecore” movement), An Education, The Women (1939, not the crappy remake), The Philadelphia Story, Sunset Boulevard

A movie that actually exists:
“The 41-Year-Old Virgin that Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and felt Superbad About It”
Um, …OK.

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