Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Noughties List

The list which I’m about to reveal has been sitting in the back-burner folders for aeons, and as far as I am concerned, I have very little ambitions to return to them and penning down my views with any points of observation, but after watching a latest release on the previous weekend (Immortals was not up to much, arresting visuals at best), it’s dawned on me that I must run some thoughts on this. Since I am on a staycation for several days on a personal mission, I guess I'll make some exceptions and spend the night sorting, finally putting this list out in the light.

There were many titles in the noughties to be shortlisted from a myriad of movies that have reigned supreme in their specific genres. There are outstanding titles that I haven’t got the opportunity to watch, while dozens didn’t make the cut and plenty were left on the sideboard as I laid them like a Rubik’s cube trying my best to unscramble them in some specific order befitting the list (earlier this year I’ve resorted to re-watching the finalists to gather my selections but had to cease the sessions when I got progressively busy with school and became slightly mental).

The final films were chosen based on a set of criteria which I presumed can only be regarded as a personal regulation; we are, after all, evaluators of own making. The rules include factors in storylines, cinematographic styles and directions, the integration of visual and sound, the acting and the writings. Needless to say, this is one person's list of ambiguous choices.

So, let’s cut to the chase. Here we go, in descending order:

20 Best Films in the First Decade of the 21st Century (2000-2009)

The Hours stick to its source material quite faithfully, having read Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about three women of different generations whose melancholic lives are interconnected by a novel written by Virginia Woolf, who is convincingly played by Kidman (with a prosthetic nose!) in which her believable characterization shows an actress at the top of her game; and her sole Oscar win in 2003 proves to be just that.

It’s not at all surprising when Schnabel won the Best Director in the 65th Golden Globe and Cannes Film Festival in 2007 for The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, as his direction for the biopic about Jean-Dominique Bauby, the French journalist, writer and editor for Elle magazine, moves like a dreamy tone-poem or resembles a painting pigmented from a palette of heart-rending scripts by Harwood and the stunning camera movements of Kamiński.

Snatch could possibly be the unbeaten crime film in the last decade for a number of reasons: one being the assorted top-notch casts (Pitt in his typecast role) who led us into London’s forbidding world of villainies, along with Ritchie’s uniquely deft treatments of cockney slang and multi-plot twists that often caught audience by surprise, coupling those with his fast-paced edits which transported us into a journey both hysterical and thrilling.

With accelerating storyline and action segments, most of which are complex set pieces of the highest order involving lengthy single-shot sequences (the longest is 7 and a half minutes long!), Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (adapted from the novel of the same name) is a cinematic triumph; a science-fiction escapade with socio-political overtones which won the BAFTA for Best Cinematography and Production Design.

Woody Allen says it all when he claimed that Match Point might be the best film he ever made when everything just happened to come out right and clicked, from the acting to the photography, and significantly so were his dialogues and scenes, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and has been analysed as a scholarship subject - an exemplary of ecocriticism as an economic school of thought.

Dogville is the first and exceptional installment in Lars Von Trier’s USA: Land of Opportunities Trilogy; innovative in its own way -- a distinct parable that uses a very minimal stage-like setting to present the story of Grace (Kidman) who found refuge in a small town, while Trier delivers strong anti-American messages with deep introspective implications of good against evil depicted in nine chapters.

When you put two eccentric individuals in the same room, what you will get in the end is a product of genius; hence we have Kaufman and Gondry, the writer and the director respectively, both of whom has the ability to fuse fantasy and realism through any mode of storytelling, in this instance a stylish thriller with touches of science to explore the essence of memory and romance (winner of Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay).

One name: Christoph Waltz, and the rest is self-explanatory: Tarantino is swell, and his script is not limited by his drolleries or ornate trademarks which never seem to stale; in fact his crafts simply got better with each project he undertakes and this we are sure of because we have come to grasp the understanding that his pursuit of pictorial theatrics knows no bloody boundaries.

There could never be a more memorable vampire movie than Interview With The Vampire, or so I thought, but I retracted and ingested my words after watching Let The Right One In - a Swedish sleeper hit that illustrates the timeworn genre in a different light, interlocking teenage and social issues with striking shots that seems to elevate it’s modest narrative outlines, giving viewers just enough thrills to feel the tension.

One can choose to recognize his larger, monumental works, namely Zodiac and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but here I've settled on Fincher’s smaller endeavaours: Panic Room, a visual exercise in confined cinema which stands out as a cult hit, with minimalist storyline and arresting cinematography, combined with subliminal cutting-edge effects that heightens the plot and keeps you at the edge of your seat, even after multiple viewings.

The last three movies have brought him to the substratum of doom, but M. Night is an astute storyteller, so I couldn’t resist sifting at least one (out of three) of his stronger productions and thus arrived at No. 10 with Unbreakable: a comic-book referential piece in a form of a psychological thriller, with a solid denouement to jolt the unanticipated audience watching in the dark.

Christopher Nolan is arguably one of the rising visionary directors, and with The Prestige, he gave us another classics following his typical patterns of non-linear narratives, which takes us to the forefront of magic and mystery with compelling themes of obsession, sacrifice and secrecy -- common Shakespearian tragedies conjoining with sci-fi elements in the making of a dramatic brilliance.

Two hit men formed an odd team of comic disaster in a dark comedy that strings themes of the undulating human condition in the course of redemption, all while the picture moves with sharp acting and capricious play of spoken words, worth a nod for McDonagh’s direction and screenplay (BAFTA for Original Screenplay) and his nonpareil choice of stars: Farrell, Gleeson and Fiennes.

An imaginary yarn of warfare and enigma, Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement is entertaining on every level, from it’s inventive camera works (the extensive use of crane choreography) to the haunting score that compliments every single scene, and it is a delight to watch the ever talented Audrey Tautou in one of her credible characters of contemporary French Cinema as she narrates the fanciful tale.

Today’s flicks have fallen into harebrained terrains in which actions speak louder than plots, and few films have made their marks by cleverly combining the two; which brings me to Spielberg’s finest feature of the last decade, Minority Report, adapted from Philip K. Dick’s novel that has all the elements in place: the pacing of a great thriller anchoring on a precognitive concept set in a formidable future, while questioning the existence of one’s own free will.

Peter Jackson’s representation of the fantasy tales based on the epic trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien clearly sets the way for imitators, as it became one of the highest-grossing and critically acclaimed adventure films of all times, sweeping accolades one after another (11 out of 11 wins in the 76th Academy Awards) and receiving wide-praises for it’s phenomenal realism through the usage of CGI and first-class digital advancements.

Not many superhero movies have succeeded in generating a brand of difference, avoiding hackneyed motifs, amassing a loyal following, or even lending their voices to the memes of a new era, but The Dark Knight stood out, and no movie this decade whose anarchical miscreant was more impressively performed as Ledger’s Joker -- certainly Nolan’s interpretation of Batman surpasses his own ambitions as it becomes one of the boldest film to grace the cinema, and beyond.

For movies with offbeat characters, unconventional scenes and impeccable comic timings, look no further than Wes Anderson’s body of work, for here I've ranked The Royal Tenenbaums at third placing; a dramedy of absurd proportions with intelligent writing (nominated for Best Screenplay) that dazzles with every frame shown, from the zany narrative opening to his popular slow-mo end shots.

Amélie is a decent, wide-eyed girl who let us into her world of wonders, taking us onto an extraordinary trip that never fails to captivate our visual sensory; and all these were made possible from the artistic visions of Jeunet who orchestrated his tour-de-force with great panache and beautiful styling through detailed mise-en-scène, where each revelry revealed is a feast for the sight and a viand for the soul.

A grand exemplar of hyperlink cinema, Meirelle’s City of God stands at the apex of cinematic excellence, with it’s authentic portrayal of gangsterism in the Brazil slums, the depictions of organized crimes and genuine character studies in the war between drug dealers; but the luminescence of the film can be found at the heart of the story powered by the exquisite artistry in camera tricks, shot angles, jump cuts, split screens, vibrant hues and sound designs -- all the elements that bring us to the crux of the matter with furious urgency.

So there you have it, at long last, the mother of all movie lists. Here's a toast to another decade of great shows. Vive le cinéma!

With this clearly out of the way, I can now get back to other urgent matters in the task list, and I can announce with slight regrets that the mission to view 100 films per year is taking a toll on me. So this year, like the last, would see me struggling to reach that mark. I am at 57th with Beginners. Probably one of the better films this year. Adieu et que Dieu bénisse.