The Beginning of the End of the Beginning of a List of the End of the Decade

The 2000s were an important decade in my development as a film fan. It was the decade of my adolescence, my graduation from high school and my eventual ascension to secondary education. It was the decade I discovered cinema…

That being said, my passion for film was always tied to films that existed long before I was born, my passion for film is more tied to old library VHS tapes than it is to the big screen.  That being said, there is still little that compares with seeing a truly magnificent film in theatres… many of my favourites of the decade were first seen in a darkened theatre surrounded by other people with a similar passion. I can almost remember the exact circumstance and reception of the audience for each film I’ve seen over the past ten years, because for me, it was as much a chance to see a great film as it was an event defined by circumstances and surroundings.  It is a unique emotional and intellectual experience, and one I don’t see myself trading the most expensive state of the art home theatre system for those smelly seats in my smelly cinema.

What to say about this in film? Apparently, a lot of things happened, some new CGI stuff, some motion capture, DVD then blu-ray, some movies about short men with big feet, etc. I’m never good at making accurate historical assessments… I do like the apparent effects of globalization on the industry though, how many more foreign language films we get, and how we already have filmmakers attempting to reflect in their work a more connected world, which is far more easy said than done. It’s an imperfect science, as most film is… as often as you get something that is startlingly modern and new, you get something stale, fetishist (not in a sexy way) and generically mainstream (*cough Slumdog*).

Since everyone is doing it, I’ve decided to present my top films from the decade. I tried to see as much as I could, but there will always be something I miss, so I think there is no point in delaying this anymore. Well… I am delaying it, since I’m only starting tomorrow, but this fancy introduction took a whole ten minutes to write, so as far as I’m concerned I’m invested. Before I start, three mini lists. First, the top ten films of the decade I wish I had seen, my five worst films and then ten honourable mentions before I start with the actual list tomorrow. Allez-up!

Ten Films from the 2000s I Wish I saw Before Making this List

Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2002)

Les Amants Reguliers (Philippe Garrel, 2005)

Kings and Queen (Arnaud Desplechin, 2004)

Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002)

Yiyi (Edward Yang, 2000)

Les amours d’Astrée et de Céladon(Eric Rohmer, 2007)

Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat, 2001)

L’Intrus (Claire Denis, 2004)

The Wayward Cloud (Ming-liang Tsai, 2005)

2046 (Wong Kar-Wai, 2004)

Five Worst Films I saw this decade (more or less)

Arsene Lupin (Jean-Paul Salomé, 2004)

Bangkog Dangerous(Oxide Pang Chun & Danny Pang, 2008)

Rambo (Sylvester Stallone, 2008)

Brothers (Susanne Bier, 2004)

Inside(Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury, 2007)

Runner-ups, Honourable Mentions for the Best Films of the Decade

Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000)

17 Again (Burr Steers, 2009)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009)

Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton & Co-director, Lee Unkrich, 2003)

The Corporation (Mark Achbar & Jennifer Abbott, 2003)

Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)

Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004)

The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller, 2008)

A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)

15 responses to “The Beginning of the End of the Beginning of a List of the End of the Decade

  1. Your “Wish I Saw” list has a couple of my favorites, namely L’Intrus and Blissfully Yours. Talk to Her is pretty good. I don’t think you’d like L’Intrus too much, but who knows. It’s very difficult and, even on a second viewing, somewhat impenetrable. Even though I probably love it, I can’t say it works for me on a second-to-second basis, but rather seems to go from sublimity to slight boredom and back to sublimity, mostly sticking to sublimity.

  2. Well, I do like that one Claire Denis film I’ve seen with the blood, I wonder how I’ll fare when people aren’t eating each other just to feel something.

  3. Trouble Every Day is about emotions and feelings. It even works around a metaphor about emotions and feelings and how they explode when their needs are not fulfilled. To feel is to destroy. L’Intrus has no such metaphor, no stand-in, but indeterminacy, wandering, dreamlike floating, repressed emotions that explode outside of the frame or exploded at another point in time, during an earlier era, repressed emotions originating from repressed memories, silence preventing the full contemplation of a past that is always present but never clarified, constantly being remembered without being pictured or entirely confronted. I liked, it does have a metaphor, the intruder, the new heart, but that’s exactly it: we cannot see the heart, it is hidden, inside the character, toiling inside the character, whereas the metaphor in Trouble Every Day leads to exterior action and reaction, visible wrath.

  4. I meant to write “I lied” not “I liked,” though I liked a fair good deal, yes.

    Man, way to ruin a perfectly good post…

  5. You make I’Intrus seem very difficult, and though I’m still excited to see it, I will definetely approach it with some trepidations. The way you speak of it, it seems like the kind of film you almost gain more from in retrospect than during the actual viewing experience. I’m never sure how to feel about those kind of films.

    Vonsamuel: It’s a moment’s whim, and I am quite fond of it. I don’t see it as rising far ahead of any of my honourable mentions, but it’s at this moment, a bit more interesting in my mind.

  6. I would argue that you gain more from a re-watch than from in-retrospect deliberation. I mean, it’s very much about the experience of watching it, viewing the disjointed dreamy images, so I can’t say its quality is exclusively or even mostly understood after-the-fact. I would say it’s very much about how you feel about the visuals or how the visuals make you feel or where you go with the aid of the visuals, although like I said, there are some parts where I lost connection with the film — only parts, mere minutes. The film, despite its obscurity, has great rhythm on a shot-to-shot basis, a quality that is important to Denis and which she translates successfully to the screen. L’intrus is very, very evocative of the things I mentioned — guilt, the pain of the past, the impossibility of atonement, relating to the Other, loneliness in company, being afraid of the world around you, etc — and all these emotions are always there on nearly every single frame, despite the somewhat build-it-as-you-wish plot. Perhaps the most interesting thing about L’intrus is that it manages to concretely evoke all these things (especially on a re-watch) whether or not you choose to indulge in imaginative interpretation. I always indulge in imaginative interpretation, even when a film doesn’t want me to, but I don’t think it’s necessary to do so in order to find the feelings nestled inside L’intrus, which emerge beautifully and clearly from the ellipses, the cinematography, the casting, the acting, the environments, the silence, and the sporadic music. Even on a first viewing, where I had no idea what was going on, I could still understand what the characters were going through, or at least what the protagonist was going through, without knowing the specifics of his and their back-story (and I still don’t, really).

    L’intrus is actually doing a ‘mystery through plot-withholding’ technique that is also present in Cache. The difference with Cache is that Haneke unambiguously reveals the traumatic memory near the end, although he still withholds other details, even with the subtly suggestive final shot. L’intrus reveals precious little. Or perhaps it reveals everything. I keep alternating between “aha!” and “lolwut” when it comes to the plot. What makes it work is that Denis incorporates all this lack of clarity into her tactic for getting us to connect with the protagonist (provided we don’t mind connecting with a fairly unlikable individual, which I don’t), since we’re searching into his past alongside him. The difference is that he probably knows about his past while we do not, but he has also practiced a kind of self-applied amnesia across the years, or has at least titanically separated himself from his past or the places that recall his past. His return, then, is a return through the murkiness brought about by decades of distance and denial, and so his apprehensive attempt to connect with a troubled past is as difficult and complicated as our own attempt, which makes for a dissimilar and yet entirely similar parallel journey between audience member and protagonist.

    But no, it’s not an easy film, even by Denis standards. When I watched L’intrus in Buenos Aires, there were dozens of walk-outs, which compares pretty poorly to the complete lack of walk-outs and fairly effusive applause that greeted the more heart-warming 35 Rhums a few days later. I personally prefer L’intrus, though.

  7. Are you going to finish this? I was hoping for several posts a day, but no updates coming. I may get my tops of the 00s out before you do.

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