24 December 2009

Best of the 00s, A List of Films List Editions

Here's one post to rule them all!

(Almost Famous, Best in Show, Battle Royale)
(Shaolin Soccer, Spirited Away, Wet Hot American Summer)
(Orange County, Infernal Affairs, Femme Fatale)
(Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)
(Kung Fu Hustle, The Incredibles, Kill Bill, Vol 2)
(Sin City, Wallace & Gromit - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Serenity)
(Thank You For Smoking, Crank, Pan's Labyrinth, Idiocracy)
(Juno, Shoot 'Em Up, Bourne Ultimatum)
(The Bank Job, Iron Man, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist)
(Up, Zombieland, Up in the Air)

If I had to whittle this down to a top ten for the decade, I think I'd have to go with the following (not in order)

The Incredibles
Almost Famous
Iron Man
Pan's Labyrinth
Battle Royale
Kill Bill (Vol 1&2 combined)
Thank You For Smoking

While that may seem like a wild top ten, with not a lot unifying those pictures, there is one straight line throughout, strongly realized characterizations. Other lessons from this list, you can have an entertaining picture without strong characters, but it won't be one that keeps you coming back for more. Your film can be a bit insane, so long as the logic of the world created is consistent. Well portrayed action sequences can cover a multitude of other sins, but action alone won't make your film memorable.

Clearly, I'm not a fan of your typical serious 'Oscar-bait' type pictures, and I avoid biopics as if they were the plague (especially musician/artist centered biopics). You'd think biopics would be strong with regards to character, given they're based on real life, but instead the opposite is true, biopics usually offer up the most stilted, one note performances around, yet they keep getting made in the same predictable ways.

Looking back on the decade, while it seems like popcorn pictures have mostly been of the horribly disappointing Star Wars 'prequel' variety, it turns out there have also been plenty of quality big budget productions that deliver on all fronts. Comedies seem to be getting better, with intelligently made, yet still stupidly funny films getting released on a regular basis. Also, chick flicks, almost always suck, and suck hard.

I think the dearth of good smaller independent dramas is a reflection of the Sundance-ification of those films. 'Independent' films in the 00s are all designed to play at Sundance, develop buzz, and they all play the same notes with the same characters doing the same things. I'm just not into the ten thousandth variation of another my family sucks drama. I'm sorry your mommy and daddy didn't express enough affection for you when you were a child, my sympathy doesn't extend to watching another boring drama depicting scenes from a collapsing marriage.

As far as all the War on Terror flicks go, I don't think I'm alone in rejecting the slew of anti-war war pictures that Hollywood foisted on an unwilling public year after year after year. The monotony, the predictable way in which the subject matter was handled, and the inevitability that our troops and our government were always going to be portrayed as the only true evil on this globe was as unentertaining as it was unsurprising. Hollywood wants your money America, but they still hate you. Hollywood knows if they delivered an unambiguously positive about our military, action oriented drama regarding our recent conflicts, where we were the good guys and the bad guys turned out to be Islamo-fascist Jihadi nutbags, that picture would do huge business in the United States. Instead, we get pounded with the same stupid message. It's a case where show business puts ideology before profit, I guess cause any producer/director/writer who puts out a patriotic war picture wouldn't be allowed at the cool kids table anymore, that's why we haven't seen it get made. Or maybe I'm just suffering from HIPTSDARDOPTSD (Hollywood Induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder After Repeated Depictions Of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). A lot of talented actors, directors and writers have wasted a lot of time churning out flop after predictable flop, all to make the same point over and over.

Looking back, there are plenty of films to recommend from the past ten years, wouldn't say it's been a great decade, but it has had its moments. If more filmmakers besides those at PIXAR would remember to always put story and character first, at every step of development, maybe there'd have been a lot more pictures to recommend, but even if the crap outweighs the good stuff, there's still good stuff out there if you look for it.

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