Friday, January 1, 2010

The Best Films of the Decade Past

Partly for your consideration, but mostly for your derision, here are the ten best films and the ten best documentaries I saw this past decade. A few things are surprising to me about this list. There are a lot more studio films on it than I was expecting; in terms of foreign cinema, I seem to prefer western Europe and East Asia. (Please note, I am feeling lazy and am hyperlinking none of these selections to IMDB pages or Youtube video.)


10) Children of Men
9) Whale Rider
8) Infernal Affairs (Part 1) / The Departed
7) Amelie
6) Brick
5) Memento
4) Pan's Labyrinth
3) City of God
2) 25th Hour
1) Old Boy

Artists, 'cross time and space, have interrogated the nature of vengeance, its limits, its contours, its origins. None has done it as Chan Wook Park has in Old Boy. I have spoken about the film before, and am disinclined to do it again. Just watch it already.

Honorable mention (in no particular order) to:  

X-Men 1 and 2, 
Brokeback Mountain, 
The Prestige, 
V for Vendetta, 
The Bourne Series, 
Kill Bill -- Volumes 1 and 2, 
You Can Count on Me, 
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, 
Road to Perdition, 
Ocean's 11,  
4 Months, Three Weeks, Two Days,  
The Lives of Others,  
Dirty Pretty Things, 
The Dark Knight, 
Michael Clayton,  
In Bruges, 
High Fidelity,  
Paradise Now, 
Super Troopers,
Knocked Up,  
Shaun of the Dead,  
Khamosh Pani,
Lady Vengeance


10) Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
9) Murderball
8) Shut Up and Sing
7) Born Into Brothels
6) Bowling for Columbine
5) Control Room
4) Spellbound
3) Mad Hot Ballroom
2) The King of Kong
1) Capturing the Friedmans


A good documentary teaches you things. And this is a good documentary, for sure. What makes it the best documentary I saw this decade is that it taught me things about myself--about my own prejudices, my own view of the world. I saw Capturing the Friedmans with a friend several years ago. I came out of it feeling that I knew with great certainly whether or not Arnold Friedman was guilty or innocent. I felt like the film had made this clear to me. My friend felt exactly the same way, but had reached the opposite conclusion as I. That kind of narrative achievement must be lauded.

Honorable mention (in no particular order) to:  

Street Fight,  
Grizzly Man,  
No End in Sight,
Taxi to the Dark Side


Anonymous said...

No ducu-love for Torturing Democracy? That's the C4TSest burn of the aughts.

cold4thestreets said...

Sorry. I should have been clearer. I was assessing theatrical releases only here. Torturing Democracy is the best televised documentary of te decade past.

E said...

huh, born into brothels, really? i'm very surprised that you would choose that film. in any case, i just watched street fight. good stuff.

not sure whether these films were ranked in order, but i agree on capturing the friedmans and children of men (not in any order of preference for myself). maybe others, if i were to think carefully enough. but then again, just 2 hours of clive owen would suffice.

Anonymous said...

Oldboy! SPOILERS ahead, you have been warned, for those who haven't seen it. I don't think I realized how much substance that movie had until after I watched Doubt. I thought, "that's right, rumors are really, really dangerous for everyone involved, but I already learned that in Oldboy." Of course, the films had a different message entirely, but we've all heard stories about our souls being in peril, what about being locked up without explanation to subsist only on dumplings for 15 years?

cold4thestreets said...

E, I like that you won't even dignify the inclusion of Amelie with a response. Well played. As for the list, yes, it places the films in order.

Now, with regard to Born into Brothels, I am not sure what specifically your argument against it is, but there are several possible ones that can be made, I know. Nonetheless I included it for two reasons: 1) It's a crystalline defense of guilt-borne white liberalism in the benighted, brown world. It might not be the most well-constructed documentary, or the most well-edited, but the fact that it pulls this feat off, I think, is pretty impressive. I came out of it thinking, "Thank God for white people." I don't often harbour such thoughts. (J/K, white people -- you are my jam!) 2) In addition to being a feel-good movie in all the conventional ways, at the heart of the film is perhaps the most amazing documentary subject discovery of the decade: that little, preternaturally gifted boy, Avijit. I was so enamoured by his eye, by his innate sense of aesthetic beauty, his ability to deconstruct, without the pretenses of academese. The movie, through sheer dumb luck, captured a young genius, unwrapping his gifts before our eyes. I am not going to sit here and argue that the movie was filmicly mind-boggling, but I will say that it moved me when I saw it, and resonates with me still. More so than The Fog of War, or whatever else the other lists are high on.

That little boy is now a freshman at NYU.

E said...

i knew amelie was a dig at me, but i guess i shouldn't be so self-centered bc my biggest cinematic enemy, rachel getting married, did not make your esteemed list.

ha, i thought fog of war was fantastic. so there you go.

E said...

also, curiously enough, i found myself enjoying "this is it" quite a lot and i'm not even that big of an MJ fan.

i remember when i was a librarian in college, this one girl came every single day to borrow the thriller CD. i bet SHE enjoyed that movie.

cold4thestreets said...

Also in '010, apparently, I say "most well-blank" instead of "best." That is how we roll in this dystopic future.

Anonymous said...

Top Five Docu-Omissions (in order of egregiousness):
1. Man on Wire
2. Fahrenheit 9/11
3. Fog of War
4. Standard Operating Procedure
5. Wordplay

That aside, your film list is rather definitive, with the exceptions of 2003's The Station Agent and 2009's In the Loop.