Monday, November 30, 2009

The Decade That Was!

It’s the end of the decade! At least that’s what every periodical and newspaper wants you to think. Of course if you know how to do math or read a calendar you know the new decade doesn’t start until 2011 (Just like the new decade, millennium, etc. didn’t start until 2001) but I’m in too much pain and on too many drugs to care so I figure why not take this opportunity to delve into the decade that was. Originally I was going to try to name the top 10 films of the decade but I have enough trouble doing that with the films of any given year. As such I figured I’d break down the major trends, people, etc. that I think years from now people will look back on as being the defining elements of the film world at the start of the 21st century. Please keep in mind these are in no particular order.

MUSICALS: The musical was dead, then in 2001 a little film called MOULIN ROUGE hit the big screen and changed all that. While we will most likely never return to the days when a new musical was practically coming out every month, with films like DREAMGIRLS, HAIRSPRAY, RENT, CHICAGO, ONCE, SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER AND UNCUT and a whole slew of others this decade proved the musical is alive and well, you just need artists with the guts to make them.

M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Look, say what you will about THE VILLAGE AND THE HAPPENING but UNBREAKABLE is one of my favorite films of all time, SIGNS is one of the best movies Spielberg never made and while I know most people hate it I adore LADY IN THE WATER and wish more people would have given it a chance. In my not so humble opinion I think this decade proved despite his massive ego and hubris Shymalan was more than a one hit wonder and that the SIXTH SENSE wasn’t a fluke. Now here’s just hoping he can recapture that magic.


RIAN JOHNSON: I know the guy’s only made two movies but both of them have been so remarkably brilliant I can’t help but feel that we are in the middle of witnessing the birth of perhaps one of the all time greats, a talent that people will be talking about for years to come. The past few years have seen him explode onto the scene with BRICK and THE BROTHERS BLOOM and I, like many others can’t wait to see what he does next.

PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON: THERE WILL BE BLOOD is easily one of the best films of the last decade and PUNCH DRUNK LOVE is no joke either. So far Paul Thomas Anderson has shown a truly scary amount of talent and one can’t help but think he’s just getting started.

JOHNNY DEPP: No matter how you slice it the past 10 years have belonged to a handful of actors. I don’t think anyone with enough brain cells to form a coherent thought will argue that one of those actors was Johnny Depp. For fans of the actor’s eclectic but always brilliant choice of roles it was immensely satisfying to see the rest of the world jump on the bandwagon with films like the PIRATES OF CARIBBEAN trilogy, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO and pretty much any film made by Tim Burton.

GEORGE CLOONEY: Speaking of actors, after brilliant turns in OUT OF SIGHT and THREE KINGS towards the end of the 20th century Clooney proved that not only is he perhaps the premiere actor of the new millennium but also one of the single coolest human beings to ever walk the face of the planet. The fact that he’s proven he can direct with the best of them just makes me even more awed and intimidated by him.

ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: Let’s wrap up the actor portion of this ordeal with perhaps one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Hollywood. I like many others have loved Robert Downey Jr. for years and in the past few years our faith and love has been rewarded with the likes of KISS KISS BANG BANG, TROPIC THUNDER and hopefully the new SHERLOCK HOLMES. Many of us have known for a while that Downey is one of the all time greats and he’s finally proving that to the world.

FOREIGN FILMS: I’m not saying there hasn’t been a massive array of the brilliant foreign films in the past but can they compare with the likes of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, PAN’S LABYRINTH, THE LIVES OF OTHERS, NINE QUEENS, LET THE RIGHT ONE and too many others to name?

MARTIN SCORSESE: Not only did he make GANGS OF NEW YORK, THE AVIATOR and SHINE A LIGHT but he finally won a MUCH deserved Oscar for THE DEPARTED. Well played sir!

J.J. ABRAMS: Even if you exclude ALIAS and LOST, perhaps two of the greatest TV shows ever made and just focus on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III and STAR TREK it’s impossible to overlook the ludicrous amounts of talent this man has. I’ve heard more than a few people call him the next Spielberg, while I don’t know if I’d go quite that far I’m not sure how far off they are.

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Forget about the insane amount of movies the man has produced over the past decade the turn of the century saw Spielberg take the helm of films like AI, MINORITY REPORT, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, WAR OF THE WORLDS and in my opinion his very best movie (Not my favorite, but I think his most mature and accomplished film) MUNICH. In the midst of the brilliant new voices the past ten years haves given us Spielberg has proven he’s an old dog with more than a few new tricks still up his sleeve.

QUENTIN TARANTINO: I love Quentin Tarantino, always have, always will and I think this new millennium has given us my two favorite films of his, KILL BILL VOL. 1 & 2 and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS and while I know it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea I loved DEATH PROOF as well. As if he really needed to Tarantino has used the last decade to prove he is one of the greatest voices in the history of cinema.


JASON BOURNE: THE BOURNE IDENTITY introduced an action hero for a post 9/11 world and its two sequels showed how an action movie should be made and that it might not be the worst idea in the world to have Paul Greengrass helm every single one of them. This trilogy changed the way action films are made and that was not a bad thing.

JAMES BOND: What happens when an upstart, newcomer arrives on the scene and shows you up at your own game? You return to your roots and make perhaps the two best films of your very long, storied franchise. In 2006 James Bond proved with CASINO ROYALE that he would not be outdone and in doing so one of my favorite movies of the decade, if not of all time was made.

LORD OF THE RINGS: I highly doubt we’ll ever see anything like it again in our lifetime. Peter Jackson pretty much did the impossible and in doing so he created a series of films for the ages. Over 9 something hours of brilliant filmmaking he brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s unfilmable series to life and with a host of Oscar winners brought legitimacy to a genre that even the biggest geek never thought would be acknowledged by the world at large. While I don’t know if these are the best or even my favorite films of this decade (Although they come close) it’s hard to argue that they might not be its greatest feat and accomplishment.

COMIC BOOK MOVIES: I’ve been a geek since the moment I could form conscious thought and if this new century has done anything it’s finally legitimized the stuff I used to always get my ass kicked for in high school. Comic books have changed the landscape of cinema and thank God for that. For years the faithful have been shouting from the rooftops that there were great stories to be told from the paneled walls of the 2-D world and someone finally listened. IRON MAN and SPIDER-MAN 2 mark two of the best films of the decade as do films like THE INCREDIBLES and UNBREAKBALE, stories who owe their very existence to the world of comic books.

PIXAR: What does perfection and brilliance look like? Pretty much anything that starts out with that jumping lamp logo. MONSTERS INC., FINDING NEMO, THE INCREDIBLES, CARS, RATATOUILLE, WALL-E, UP, there’s not a dud in the bunch.

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: And then there’s this guy. Pound for pound Nolan is at least tied, if not a nose ahead of Spielberg as the single best director working in the industry today. The man burst onto the scene at the beginning of the decade with the brilliant MEMENTO and has been jacking them over the fence ever since with the likes of INSOMNIA, BATMAN BEGINS, THE PRESTIGE and of course THE DARK KNIGHT a film that after much consideration and deliberation I’ve decided is the very best film of the last decade. No ifs, ands or buts about it Nolan is one of the all time greats, a director who I honestly think will someday be held up there with the likes of Welles, Hitchcock, Lean, Coppola and Spielberg and up until this last decade no one even knew he existed. The last decade has brought us a great many gifts but I don’t know if any of them have been as awesome as Christopher Nolan.


Adam said...

Chris, I intentionally avoided looking at your retrospective until I had finished mine, so that what I wrote wouldn't be influenced by it and would be my own thoughts. That said, I'm struck by the similarities between our lists. We agree quite a bit, my friend, even if I think your coronation of Christopher Nolan is incredibly premature.

I want to single out a couple of things that we are right on the same page with.

-Spielberg. People honestly don't get how incredibly adventurous he's been this decade, starting with A.I. He's made some of the best films of his career, and that's saying a lot.

-Shyamalan. I dug Lady In The Water too, and really don't get why people hate it so much. I even liked The Village. That film suffered from being criminally mis-marketed. The movie itself is pretty good.

-Kaufman. Ditto.

-Anderson. Ditto. He's incredible. I love the way he swings for the fences every time. He reminds me of David O. Selznick.

-The Coen Bros. Watching a Coen movie isn't like watching anyone else's, and they've made some really good ones (and one GREAT film) this decade. I love their work.

-LOTR. Seriously, Jackson deserves a place all his own in the pantheon of great cinematic achievments for pulling this off. If it had bombed, his career would have gone down the drain.

What a decade!

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to Sherlock Holmes, do an entry on that one when you see it. I'll be seeing it opening week so it will be cool to compare notes.