Top 50 Films of the Decade : 40-50

Top 50 Films Of The Decade : 40-50

50. Star Trek (2009)

For some kids, it’s cricket or footy; for others, it’s deciding whether to take up piano or guitar. For me, and many like me (those that grew up in the late 70s, early 80s), it was a choice between following the adventures of the blonde-guy-in-the-cream-skirt or familiarizing myself with the pointy-eared-brunette-in-the-skirt. I went with the former – if only because Han Solo just seemed that wee bit cooler than Kirk. And though my beloved “Star Wars” would always come before its spacely challenger “Star Trek” (well, right up until George Lucas was replaced by a clone made my Mattel; a clone with the primary mission of selling toys and happy meals) has impressed me enough over the years to lead me to question my choice. And again, after checking out the latest “Trek” film – leaps and bounds above the last “Star Wars” film – I question my allegiance to the Empire.

J.J Abrams. My God. This guy knows how to entertain – and he seems intent on not sending anyone home unsatisfied here. He wants to give audiences a popcorn blockbuster the likes of which most of us grew up with but don’t much see anymore; the kind of films we’d rush to see at the cinema on a Saturday afternoon – films like “Gremlins”, “Ghostbusters”, “Back to the Future” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – and succeeds brilliantly. There’s not a dull moment in the film. But aside from that, it’s tightly paced, full of colour, jammed with some great beats, and imaginative.

49. Layer  Cake (2004)

If “Croupier” made Clive Owen a Bond contender then Matthew ‘Couldn’t get X-Men 3 going’ Vaughan’s “Layer Cake” got Daniel Craig the job. A gangster movie influenced by the contemporary stylings of both Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino, the keyed up, brilliantly-performed (say what you will about the girl, is sublime here) and power-packed ‘concluding’ “Layer Cake” is a rich treat for those that like their fluff to encompass  chunks of mutton.

48. You Can Count On Me (2000)

This, as my wife likes to call them, is one of those “talky movies” where people sit around and natter… and do little else. Of course she’s right… but there’s much more going on in Kenneth Lonergan’s drama than the eye perceives. This flick is in fact a great insight into the modern-day dysfunctional family and the ties and tears that keep us together…. or apart. Great performances by the always solid Laura Linney, Matthew ‘Refuses-to-be-Pigeonholed’ Broderick and then-newcomer Mark Ruffalo. And Lonergan himself gave a good little performance as Ron, who tries to steer Ruffalo’s character back on the right track. “Because even in this little town, I feel like what I do is very connected with the real center of people’s lives”, Ron says, “I’m not saying I’m always Mr. Effective, but I don’t feel like my life is off to the side of what’s important. You know? I don’t feel my happiness and comfort are based on closing my eyes to trouble within myself or trouble in other people. I don’t feel like a negligible little scrap, floating around in some kind of empty void, with no sense of connectedness to anything around me except by virtue of whatever little philosophies I can scrape together on my own… ” Brilliant stuff!

47. Spider-Man (2002)

Anyone could  – excuse the pun – weave together a feature version of ‘’Spider-Man” – geez, all it would take is a red jumpsuit and a good pair of rock-climbing boots – and so when Hollywood announced plans for it I didn’t lose a breath. In all honesty, I was convinced – like Superman Lives – that it would start filming one month and then be in development hell (where it’d already been once – thanks to James Cameron, red-tape, and some over-eager investors) the next. But last-forward to June 2002, Sam Raimi’s got director credit, Tobey Maguire’s got lead billing and there’s a young film critic smiling from ear to ear at the end result. How could I have ever doubted The Amazing Spider-man!

“Spider-Man” is everything you hoped it would be and more, a monstrously enjoyable couple of hours of startling stunts, larger than life action sequences, astute performances and best of all… a religiously faithful adaptation of one of Marvel’s most treasured comic-book heroes.

Like the original ‘’Superman ‘’movie, Raimi’s film hasn’t been tweaked to the point of it being unrecognizable to hard core-fans (hello Batman!), just modernized, jazzed up and drowning in masses of energy.

I remember interviewing Sam Raimi the next day for a magazine and thanking him about fifty times for not screwing this up.

46. X-Men 2 (2003)

Loved the first, but might just love the second more. What made the X-Men comics so enjoyable was the way they spoke to an audience. Yes, it’s a superhero product, but as creator Stan Lee will tell, he created the X-Men as not just another band of heroes, but those that have much more of a human element. In effect, the issues of their dilemma – being different and not being able to fit in – speak many different levels. They may be using the words “mutant” and “human” quite generally here, but they’re really flying the flag for anyone a little different to the norm. The second of the films based on the comic property again continues with this realistic theme – maybe even more so.

In addition, the characters on screen are not merely puppets for a popcorn blockbuster, but a credible bunch of real people – with real feelings, real issues and real shit going on in their lives.

If anything pushes this and the first ‘’X Men” above the norm, be it this extra-real sense of character definition. (Forget the third one – or try).

45. There Will Be Blood (2007)

I love Paul Thomas Anderson – he’s a genius,  and those familiar with “Hard Eight”, “Boogie Nights”, “Magnolia” and “Punch Drunk Love” will attest to the filmmaker’s astuteness. But even if you haven’t been able to spot the man’s god-like ability to take what might otherwise be a fairly-straightforward plot and turn it into something sumptuous, epic, and etched in your mind, before, you definitely will now – with “There Will Be Blood”.  Look at it this way, if George McFly wanted to get Biff Tannen down on the ground, he could’ve saved himself a bruise by merely showing him this power-packed, breath-beseeching tale of a cold-hearted oil tycoon who’ll risk everything – and anyone – to keep his Empire.

44. A History of Violence (2007)

I’ve never been that nuts about David Cronenberg’s films. Yes, I’ve enjoyed them (“The Fly” is especially fun), but not to the point where I’d be singing their praises that night at the dinner table, or having their images dance around my head for days after. But “A History of Violence”, Cronenberg’s first film with his newly-crowned muse Viggo Mortensen (they’d later reteam for the near-as-good “Eastern Promises”), had me rushing to print out the Cronenberg Fan Club membership form. It’s amazing. There’s no way to describe  the hard-boiled  psychological thriller  – about a seemingly average Joe whose past life as an assassin is exposed – other than ‘powerful’ – it’s a top-price lawnmower, a V8 Supercar, and a wrestler on crack rolled into one. If you didn’t catch it on its brief cinema stint, then please chase up the disc.

43. Once (2007)

It’s films like this that remind me why I’m producing movies. They inspire me, they drive me, and they acknowledge the fact that a lot can be accomplished with a little. Shot for about the equivalent t of a monthly mortgage payment, and starring two complete unknowns, this musically-driven drama worked its way into everyone’s heart when it arrived on the scene a few years back – and not just because of it’s beautiful, beautiful, beautiful music (did I mention how beautiful the music is in this!?) but because of how wonderfully-performed and dexterously structured it is. This is a flick all budding filmmakers should watch before they even think about laying down the cash for a Nikon.

42. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

I saw this in a theater in Los Angeles in the Summer of 2006. I remember the day clearly – to escape the heat, my wife and I decided to go and see a movie. Now I was trying to coax her into seeing “Miami Vice” (Michael Mann’s big-screen version of the super-super 80s series), but she was dead-set on seeing this ‘sweet looking’ family comedy that had garnered raves at Sundance earlier in the year.  I was interested, sure, but not nearly as interested as seeing Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx get around Miami in some designer suits. We compromised – we’d check out “Little Miss Sunshine” now, so long as she promised we’d go to the first session of “Vice” the next day. And we did. And as it turned out, guess which film I enjoyed more… a lot more!? Yep, the ‘sweet looking’ family comedy.  Not to say I didn’t enjoy “Vice” (to be honest, I didn’t first time ‘round; it’s since grown on me), just that there was something particularly special about this warm-hearted, terrifically-performed dramedy… something most films of the same category sadly don’t possess.

41. Junebug (2006)

This’d make a great double feature with “Little Miss Sunshine” (see above) – both are fiscally-friendly warm-hearted comedies, headlined by super talent (So proud of Amy Adams here – and I’ve told her a dozen times or more), that prove star-driven, cash-driven films of the same division are well and truly on the way out.

40. Donnie Darko (2001)

Now I have to admit, I didn’t quite know what to make of Richard Kelly’s “Donnie Darko” when I first caught it – sure I’m not alone – but a few viewings later, and it’s grown on me like a pussy welt.  Everything that’s wrong with Hollywood could likely be fixed if this highly-original, thought-provoking and stimulating supernatural drama became the blueprint for any new film. The sequel on the other hand….

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