With the end of a fantastic decade of cinema behind us, I decided to look back at some of my favourite films of this decade on a year by year basis. Remember these are my personal favourites, not necessarily the best films but they have a charm, rewatchability and sheer awesomeness which I find personally appealing to my own tastes.
2000: Almost Famous
"I'm flying high over Tupelo, Mississippi, with America's hottest band ... and we're all about to die."
'Almost Famous' (2000) is a shining example of a perfect movie. The way it captures an era so perfectly, how it showcases the dynamic of a band through the plot device of a young rock journalist writing an article for Rolling Stone and how it captures the human element of these people involved in this world of 1970's Rock 'n' Roll.
Kate Hudson gives the best performance, by far, in her career marred by mediocrity as the lovable Penny Lane who is a band-aide (not a groupie, as she states) who follows the fictitious band Stillwater on tour whilst Patrick Fugit plays William who is roped into travelling with this band writing an article he's clearly too inexperienced to handle to the chagrin of his worrisome mother.
Billy Crudup (Dr Manhattan in 'Watchmen') portrays Russel Hammond the guitarist of Stillwater whose talents far exceed his average band members and is involved in a complicated relationship with Penny due to his rock star lifestyle.
The dialogue in this film is so crisp and well written as almost every scene in this film is quotable in one way or another. The relationship between each character of the film is clear and defined by the way they interact whether its the band arguing over Russel's rising stardom due to a botched t-shirt or William's awkward interactions with Penny initially as only a 15 year old kid would do.
"Tell him, you know, it's a think piece about a midlevel band struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom. He'll wet himself."
Phillip Seymour Hoffman appears in several brief scenes as a mentor to William as he is thrust into this world he is clearly unfamiliar with and Frances McDormand nails the role of a vastly intelligent yet overprotective mother afraid of losing her children.
'Almost Famous' remains a film that depicts the perception of what a band structure really is as well as being an excellent character driven piece leaving you to cherish the experience and to watch over and over again for years to come. Speaking of rewatchability that brings me too...
2001: Training Day
Technically not my favourite film of 2001, as that's reserved for my favourite film of the decade which I will explain later on, but Training Day (2001) is a film I have watched over and over again with the final half of the film still as intense then ever.
Most of you have seen this film by now but I'll briefly overview the plot anyway. Ethan Hawke plays a rookie cop partnered with experienced narcotics officer Alonzo portrayed by Denzel Washington as he is drawn into a harsh situation with an incredibly unstable mentor.
Yeah, that's right, you better walk away. Go on and walk away... 'cause I'm gonna' burn this motherfucker down. King Kong ain't got shit on me.
There is a myriad of iconic scenes here including Ethan Hawke's character being forced to try PCP, being hunted down by a crazed Alonso whilst singing and of course Alonzo's last stand where it becomes inevitable that his plan has long failed with a sudden death awaiting him that is completely unavoidable.
Watching this film several times I've noticed many flaws and thought of it to be somewhat overrated but since I have rewatched it several times there is just something about Denzel's chilling portrayal and how everything unravels which keep you glued to the screen no matter how many viewings you sit through. Speaking of crime, the next choice was obvious with...
2002: City Of God
Truly one of the great foreign films this decade, City Of God (2002) is a completely life altering movie experience which immerses you in the dangerous underbelly that is the slums of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Admittedly its been a while since I've last seen this film but the experience still haunts me to this day as the powerful elements of violence and corruption are invoked which makes you wonder what it would be like to grow up in such an environment.
The usage of young children here is chilling as they can be as brutal as the most hardened criminals as we see the film through the protagonist as their world emerges to the true horror it is. On a lighter note, my next film is far more optimistic as it is...
2003: Love, Actually
Quite simply my favourite romantic-comedy of all-time, Love, Actually (2003) in an incredible film integrating the lives of several loosely connected couples as they experience the many different phases of love, romance and relationships.
Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightly, Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, Alan Rickman and many, many more are all part of this incredible ensemble cast portraying each unique character very well as each story tie in to one another.
This film really captures everything good about the romantic comedy genre, all of the perks, the different aspects of the relationships old and new and a real sense of fulfillment and satisfaction arises by film's end.
And of course who can forget the iconic scene...
2004: The Incredibles
In a decade which saw the rise of the superhero film, thanks partly to increasing quality in CG technology and partly to the every growing comic-book culture in modern society, those fine folks at Pixar brought us what you ideally wanted in any Superhero film in The Incredbiles (2004).
This charming 3D animation is really what Fantastic Four should of been with the great concept of family with super human abilities dealing with a reality without the need of superheroes then reclaiming their former glory when needed. The family dynamic is excellent here, an absoluty engaging element of the story.
Jason Lee as the villain Syndrome is as good of a performance you'll get from a voice actor as you really sympathize with the faults of his character yet succeeds as a despicable villain due to his bitterness towards Mr Incredible. His evolution as a passionate child to an eccentric inventor/entrepreneur turned villain is simply fantastic.
Pixar really have a knack of telling a good story, even one that you strip down too is very basic the way the plot progresses organically is fantastically done you just know they knocked this one out of the park when it came out. One of the best animated films this decade. Onto a more epic cinematic production...
2005: Kingdom Of Heaven
The decade has been very good to Orlando Bloom in retrospect, he has played major character in some of the most epic films in the past decade and Kingdom Of Heaven (2005) affirms that.
To call this film epic is an understatement as it is absolutely breathtaking in its vast battle scenes and gorgeous recreation of middle-ages Jerusalem. Ridley Scott certianly doesn't disappoint in his shot making in this film as it is some of the best cinematography I've seen in recent years.
However all of the internal sub-plots really drive this film forward as well as Edward Norton's portrayal of King Baldwin IV. I adored the original theatrical cut of the film however after hearing Carlyle mention the Director's Cut of the film in ACOCO I had to check it out and found it to be a far more "complete" film.
More than 3 hours in length, the Director's cut solidifies various plot points in the narrative that weren't apparent in the original cut, particularly the character of Sibylla portrayed by Eva Green was given a far more prominent role in the film's final version.
It has been a while since I've seen this film as well however I plan on purchasing the DVD so I can watch it again and again because I was in awe watching this. Speaking of films I watch over and over again...
2006: Children Of Men
One of my favourite films, Children of Men (2006) is an incredibly tense film set in a dystopian future (yeah, never seen that before) in which a world has not seen the birth of a child in over 18 years, spelling certain doom for mankind.
Clive Owen plays Theo who suddenly plays the role of protector to the miracle pregnancy of Kee and the many different collectives out to get this mysterious pregnant woman to serve their own motivations. What emerges is a tense journey to get Kee to safe passage and to ensure the birth of the miracle child whilst dealing with double-crosses and insurmountable odds.
"Your baby is the miracle the whole world has been waiting for"
It really is the ultimate emergence-from-despair film as illustrated in the final sequence of the film that the good and sympathetic side of humanity can still exist in a world which it has been a stranger to for far too long. There are incredible scenes in this film and many great performances such as Michael Caine as Jaspar. You grow to hate this world and what it has become yet rooting for a salvation that is represented in the form of this child.
Well shot film with excellent pacing and intensity makes it one of the finest films of the decade.
2007: Charlie Wilson's War
"These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world... and then we fucked up the endgame."
Charlie Wilson's War (2007) was easily my favourite film of 2007 and given its stellar cast and fascinating story its not hard to see why. Tom Hanks is incredible in his portrayel of U.S Congressman Charlie Wilson, a flawed man with questionable traits, who spearheaded the U.S assistance in the Afghan-Soviet War which ultimately dented the Red Army however with hindsight created a situation that lead to an enemy all to real to us in present day.
This film is a captivating history lesson and told very matter-of-fact with little political agenda by the director of production staff evident in the film thus making it seem more of a 'pure' story. Charlie Wilson feels justified in helping the Afghan people fight a war they can't possibly win with help from CIA Operative Gust Avrakotos played incredibly well by the always awesome Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
This film is fascinating more than anything just seeing how the political process works by forming political allies for funding purposes, the way they ensure the weapons distributed to the Afghan people aren't distributed directly by the U.S and how Charlie Wilson uses the many follies in his life such as his 'alleged' cocaine use and promiscuity to shelter his true agenda in acquiring to fiscal means to help the war effort, taking 5 million dollars to 1 billion dollars in a relatively short amount of time.
One of the finest aspects of this film is the fact that it is very tight, running around 90 minutes, which is simply a delight in an era in which many of the premiere films extend to 2+ hours this film finds a way to tell a story well in an alloted time comfortable with the human attention span and maintaining a well flowing pace so the film never drags.
I'm about to give you an NIE that shows the crazies are rolling into Kandahar.
2008: Let The Right One In
Controversial pick, maybe, due to 2008 being home to many of my favourite films this decade. However the "other" vampire flick of 2008 is a charming tale of two children dealing with life in Sweden where one deals with the growing issue of being bullied and feeling out of place in his school while the other is isolated from living a normal life. Also she's a vampire.
Oskar is a 12 year old boy who befriends his new neighbor Eli who carries the burden of being a creature of the night. As their friendship develops with adorable sequences such as teaching Morse code to one another and sharing a bed late at night we are faced with the chilling reality of the dark life Eli must live due to her vampiric nature with her creepy handler Håkan (reading the book really weirds you out on this guy) who is willing to kill for her as well as the nature of Oskar's bullying in school.
Oskar and Eli both grow as people and after the plot progresses we reach a climax that simply is unforgettable and a conclusion that is quite heart-warming in contrast.
The character of Lacke is a fascinating one as he is portrayed as a somewhat despicable human being but suffers the tragic loss of both his best-friend and girlfriend to Eli and seeks to hunt down the vampire. With Oskar's assistance he is killed when Eli retalites which brings up the moral question: in traditional vampire media what Lacke did is completely justified in a similar fashion Van Hellsing was in killing a vampire that slayed innocents
The cinematography is outstanding here, many of the night sequences are beautifully shot and the film features one of my favourite suicide sequences ever and the climatic pool scene is truly a feast for the eyes. Let The Right One In (2008) is an amazing film, my second favourite this decade and I am in fact watching it later tonight as part of a double feature which will be my 5th viewing of it. I can't wait but speaking of children that leads me too...
Granted, I have not had a chance to see many of the better films as of yet in 2009 but of those I have seen thus far Up (2009) is a clear winner as my favourite. The heart-warming tale of a bitter old man Carl teaming up with an adorable wilderness explorer Russel in flying his house to South America to fulfill a pipe dream his deceased wife and he had many years a yonder.
This film is one of the most consistently funny films I have honestly seen in a long time yet it was incredibly touching from then opening sequence that will induce to tears assuming you have a soul to the emotional attachment you develop for an inanimate object in the house which represents the memories existing between Carl and his wife.
A colourful array of characters and environment make their appearance in the film's second half as well as the hilarious talking dogs. The film engrosses you from the word go and makes you identify with these characters yet never too intense to break into its constant gags which are perfect in reseting the intensity of the film and restoring narrative flow.
Up is now one of my favourite 3D animated films and amongst Pixar's best, which truly is saying something. It is on par with the best animated film's of the decade including Spirited Away, The Incredibles, Wall-E and only one animated film this decade was superior in my personal preference which happened to be my favourite film of the decade...
Favourite of the decade: Metropolis
I Iove, love, love, love, loooooooooooovvvveeee this film. Though this is a niche film that is specifically geared to animated film lovers and the 2001 animated adaption of Osamu Tezuka's (Astroboy) Metropolis manga, Metropolis (2001) is a fantastic film that I've appreciated more and more with each viewing.
The focal point of the story is the relationship between Kenichi, nephew of a detective, and robot girl Tima. The growing friendship of the naive robot girl who is new to the world as Kenichi teaches her the ways of the world as the two are paired up to find their way through the catacombs of a highly complex city.
The societal perception of humans vs robots is a fantastic allegory for class systems as robots are seen as lesser beings whilst many of the human characters are truly despicable the film climaxes into a self destructive tone which simply enthralls you.
Aesthetically its gorgeous, many sequences are stunning are you are immersed into this universe the animators created that seems like a dark reflection of what our own reality may truly be. Kenichi growing affection for Tima solidifies this as a tragedy for he blindly longs for a love and friendship he cannot have due to Tima true nature. This is highlighted during the films ultimate climax with "I can't stop loving you" playing during the heart-breaking sequence.
I adore this film so much it was the only film I truly remember being outraged for a prominent critic, Roeper, disliking it. He used such a condescending tone towards the film despite Ebert appreciating it as he was more familiar with the Japanese animated style.
That concludes my favourite films of the decade, many honorable mentions should go out to films that weren't on there likely due to sharing the same year as another awesome film: Unbreakable (2000) which would be on this list if not for Almost Famous, The Dark Knight (2008) which would be on if not for Let The Right One In for example.
Remember these are my favourite films, not the best films. Merely films that are timeless to me and I could watch over and over again and have affection for all. Hope you enjoyed the read and hopefully the Teens would be just as good of a decade as this past one has been to cinema.