Greg Mottola’s hilarious and very personal mix of real life drama and comedy fuse together perfectly in Adventureland. Marketed as another Superbad, Adventureland quickly proved to be equally, if not more hilarious, and all together a much stronger film. Mottola said that much of the film is autobiographical and the movie truly feels it as Jesse Eisenberg deals with the troubles of adolescence ending and finding love in Kristen Stewart’s character. The film is backed by a wonderful mix of 80’s classics and real “rip your heart out” music like tracks from Lou Reed. One of the funniest and without being too flat, realistic teen films in the last decade.
9. Rachel Getting Married
Jonathan Demme returns to fiction once again, but this time in a totally different way. His previous films Philadelphia, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Truth About Charlie all benefited from a steady and almost ethereal quality. Rachel Getting Married offers Jonathan to show off the new skills he has gained as a documentary filmmaker after working on such projects as Jimmy Carter Man From the Plains and Neil Young Heart of Gold (both wonderful). Anne Hatheway gives a career performance best as a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. The whole picture is filmed in digital handheld to achieve a more immediate and “home-movie” quality, which works under the context of this film where other attempts may have failed. The film also benefits from many fascinating supporting characters, namely incredible and oscar worthy performances from Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger, and my favorite part of the film Bill Wier as the father of Rachel and Kym. The films off the cuff style is not for everyone, but the performances alone stand out as great achievements.
Possibly one of the strangest yet most innocent films of the decade, or ever. The Polish Brothers’ third film based around a midwest city is a visual masterpiece, offering more and more upon each viewing. The film is centered around a town in Montana that is soon going to be turned into a massive lake once the Northfork dam is released. Nick Nolte plays a priest who is taking care of a dying boy who, as he experiences the last moments of his life switches back and forth between a world of pain and confusion (reality) to a surreal subplot in which he is a lost angel that a band of angels have been tracking to take home. James Woods and co-writer Mark Polish are part of a team of men whose task it is to evacuate the town before flooding, all so they get the deed to some lake front property. The film is a visual masterpiece filled with tender and surprisingly honest views on spirituality and a wonderful austere yet entrancing view of the Montana landscape.
7. Snow Angels
David Gordon Greens fourth feature film Snow Angels is a two part story of the struggles of relationships. One part involves the recently split up couple played by Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale in two of their best roles yet. The other is a pitch-perfect budding romance between high schoolers played by Michael Angarano and Olivia Thirlby, who are both the heart of the film and exhibit some of Green’s best work with characters. The movie takes a turn into a harsh and depressing reality when Rockwell and Beckinsale’s daughter goes missing. The film radiates with both joy and deep sorrow, largely due to Tim Orr’s fantastic cinematography (probably his best yet). Supporting roles held by Amy Sedaris, Griffin Dunne, Nicky Catt, and the puzzling yet heartbreakingly wonderous Tom Noonan all deepen the film even more as it descends into a dark and harsh ending.
6. Whale Rider
A beautifully filmed and convincingly acted masterpiece of Maori culture.
Whale Rider is the story of a 12 year old Maori girl who knows that she is born to the destiny her grandfather believes died with her stillborn twin brother. The story is about young Paikea, played incredibly by Keisha Castle Hughes, and the change that her culture must undergo in order to flourish as it has for so many years. She, by name and blood is in the direct line of the original Paikea, the Whale Rider. And the Maori must ride that “whale” as bravely as their mythological ancestor rode the whale from Havaiki (a satellite island of Tahiti, NOT Hawaii) to New Zealand. Not to destroy or denigrate their culture, but to ensure its vitality and continuity in the cultural matrix of the modern world.
A great lesson in true cultural diversity without preachy slogans or “politically correct” censorship. It should be shown in all the world’s classrooms. Keisha Castle-Hughes is unforgettable as the heroine, and richly deserved the Oscar for which she has been nominated.
Provided is a link to Roger Ebert’s highly positive review of Niki Caro’s film.
15. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Andrew Dominik’s subtle and thoroughly engrossing western is a pitch perfect ensemble film lead also by its haunting score by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave, wonderful writing, great direction by Andrew Dominik, and perhaps its crowning gem, the magnificent cinematography by one of my favorites Roger Deakins. Mali Finn (RIP) the casting director always seems to put together groups of people who always flourish and hit back when they are thrown a curveball (see also North Country, Undertow, All the Real Girls, The Green Mile, Manic…). The film is led by Casey Affleck, a somewhat loveable but pathetic man, Robert Ford the eventual assasin of the iconic American outlaw Jesse James, no surprise there. The surprises come in the form of incredible performances around the board from Paul Schneider, Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard, Garret Dillahaunt, Mary Louise Parker, Pat Healy, Zooey Deschanel, and wonderful little cameo-esque roles from Nick Cave and James Carville.
Junebug remains one of the most influential films as a future hopeful director. This film offers so much insight into its characters and is a completely different experience than I have ever undergone with a film. Amy Adams gives the performance of her career as a bright, bubbly, and truly optimistic person, even under the many stresses she undergoes throughout the film. Phil Morrison expertly weaves through the many layers of the story bouncing from bizarre and bright comedy to somber and very real and deep emotion regarding family and relationships. Truly one of the most underrated films of the decade.
Everything brilliant Alex Proyas has done as a filmmaker has come into this expertly crafted and mindblowingly misunderstood sci-fi picture. Nic Cage and Rose Byrne navigate through the destruction beautifully and Alex Proyas proves that in my opinion he is the king of science fiction filmmaking with such credits as The Crow, Dark City, Spirits of the Air Gremlins of the Clouds, and his weakest picture I Robot. The doubters of the film will not be silenced, but despite the backlash I stand firm in my support of this film. I do know a few who will back me up, namely Andy Ferguson, Karl Leschinsky, my sister, and Roger Ebert.
12. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy may very well be the most hilarious film I have or will ever have seen. That aside, this crafty and visually stunning sci-fi/comedy is a wonderful adaptation of the classic Douglas Adams books. With a screenplay by Adams the film radiates with his quick and ridiculous humor transporting the viewer to anywhere and everywhere he sees fit. The hilarious cast is headed by the brilliant Martin Freeman as the loveable outsider who just wants a little bit more understanding of the world he lives in and how he can achieve what he wants, mainly the love of Trillian played by Zooey Deschanel in the role that made me truly fall in love with her. Other zany roles are played wonderfully by Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Bill Nighy, and John Malkovich. Also included is a joint role from Warwick Davies and Alan Rickman and the voices of Stephen Fry and Helen Mirren. This remains one of my all-time favorite films.
11. Into the Wild
The last film before the top ten is Sean Penn’s adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s book based of the life of Christopher Johnson McCandless a.k.a Alexander Supertramp. Penn’s Into the Wild is masterfully shot, edited, acted, and the music is on a level of its own featuring original songs from Eddie Vedder and Michael Brook and two pieces from Kaki King. Emile Hirsch tramps across America, living the dream of many young transcendentalists and rebels. I my self share many of the same ideals as Chris and though my choices in life will lead me elsewhere, I respect Christopher as being a true idealist and for having the follow through to achieve something that did and does indeed transcend the outcome. Supporing roles from Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, first time actor Brian Dierker, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, Zach Galifianakis, and of course Hal Holbrook all help bring the story of the Christopher McCandless to a visual and poetic reality.
20. Brokeback Mountain
Director Ang Lee demonstrates once again his versatility as a director in this fabulous story of a struggle between two friends who share a relationship that even transcends what they thought they believed in. Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, and Michelle Williams all give performances of a lifetime and Anne Hatheway proves that she is far more than we expected but can now come to expect. Aside from its social importance the film is just plain incredible with wonderful cinematography and a beautiful score.
Werner Herzog, master director and storyteller extroadinaire teams up with Tim Roth to make this incredible film centering around a Jewish strongman in Nazi occupied Poland. The story is engaging, the cinematography perfect, but the biggest strong points are Tim Roth’s incredible performance and the overall aesthetic of the film, which switches from incredibly realistic and somewhat stark to visually compelling mastery that Herzog is oh so capable of. Another vastly underrated and relatively unseen film of Herzogs.
Directed, Written, Edited, Scored, and Starring Shane Carruth Primer is perhaps the best and most truly independent film of the decade. Meaning, this movie was made next to nothing but does everything in its power to be believable, expertly crafted, engrossing, and highly entertaining. The movie was made well under 5,000 dollars and is still one of the most grounded and realistic sci-fi’s ever made. See this movie, it’s about time travel, that’s all you need to know I guess.
Juno, one of America’s most well “adopted little indie flicks” since it was cute to “find” movies, is an incredibly sharp-witted, playful, and fun movie starring one of my favorite actresses Ellen Page. Jason Reitman’s second feature is, as always, skillfully directed with a quick and ultra whitty style of his we have come to love. Also featured is a wonderfully brilliant ensemble cast including, J.K. Simmons, Michael Cera, Jason Batemen, Jennifer Garner, Olivia Thirlby, Allison Janney, and Rainn Wilson. The overly whitty and hip dialogue from newbie Diablo Cody may not be able to stand on its own as a piece, but under the skilled hands of Reitman and incredible performances across the board Juno succeeds in becoming one of the best comedies of the decade.
Based off of the Ian McEwan novel of the same name Joe Wright’s Atonement is a mixture of a beautiful and nostalgic look back into young love and the effects of a very naive decision on the lives of the people within the story. The film is centered around Briony Tallis played by Vannessa Redgrave, Romola Garai, and most brilliantly by in my opinion the best young actor to spring up in decades Saoirse Ronan. Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy both give wonderous performances as destined to be tragic lovers. The film is a wonderful adaptation of McEwan’s equally brilliant novel and the cinematography, soundtrack, and set design enhance the experience to an overall perfect cinematic achievement. This was my pick for best picture of 2007.
25. The Proposition
A blood-soaked Australian film regarding the “taming” of the wild outback, cut throat outlaws, and the local Aboriginal population. With a screenplay and score from Aussie legend Nick Cave, the film resonates with the same rugged, mysterious, and even spiritual element that is so prevalent in Cave’s songwriting. John Hillcoat proves that he is a wonderfully talented director with an eye for destruction, devastation, and sparse landscape (see also The Road). With incredible performances from Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, Danny Huston, John Hurt, David Gulpillil, and David Wenham the film succeeds in every way and tackles the issues of Australia’s white origins with a ferocious honesty.
Another Aussie made film, Candy is a both beautiful and shocking film about the devastating effects of heroin and the destruction of relationships caused by addiction. Heath Ledger gives one of his most effecting and incredible performances that is in every way matched by Abbie Cornish. Director Neil Armfield skillfully heads the story to an increasingly dark and incredibly depressing outcome. This is by far one of the most devastatingly raw and painful films of the decade.
23. The Fall
Tarsem’s second film The Fall proves that the director, as a visionary, is completely unmatched by any man or woman working today. Boasting a completely CGI free visual experience, The Fall transports both the paraplegic star played wonderfully by Lee Pace and the viewer to a wholly organic and completely mind-blowing fairy tale world that is capable of whatever an imagination can conjure. The only way to truly understand the film is to experience it first hand.
22. The Fountain
Darren Aronofsky’s third feature film The Fountain, is his most ambitious and perhaps most polarizing film. Taking place in three separate time periods, but only one state of consciousness the film reaches a level of spirituality, vision, and substance that only one other filmmaker has consistently done, the equally polarizing Stanley Kubrick. The film rests on the involvement of the viewer to experience the connection that Hugh Jackman’s character shares with his wife played by Rachel Weisz. The music also benefits from an incredible score by Clint Mansell, performed by The Kronos Quartet and Mogwai. Kent Toalson, I still want my DVD of this back, haha.
Rian Johnson’s ultra-whitty homage to film noir is a film that, if enjoyed benefits from multiple viewings, not due to complexities of the story but simply because the film takes such a radically different approach to filmmaking. The film embraces its clichés and moves rather quickly past the novelty of the high school world that it is set in and settles in a more peculiar and dark reality, riddled with kingpins, seductresses, and brainiacs who all seem to be in way over their heads. The movie is smart, fast, and above all incredibly enjoyable.
Sorry about the one day delay, I was away from my computer. The Next five will continue.
Filed under: Uncategorized
48. Disco Pigs
47. Pan’s Labyrinth
45. The Station Agent
42. Inglourious Basterds
41. The Aviator
40. Revolutionary Road
39. The Mudge Boy
38. Hellboy/Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
36. George Washington
34. The Hawk Is Dying
33. North Country
32. A.I. Artificial Intelligence
31. Holy Smoke
30. The Golden Compass
27. Winter Passing
26. Almost Famous
Now only 25 to go! They will be split up into pieces of five and will have short snippets of info about each, why I chose it etc… You can look forward to a few Aussie and Kiwi flicks, more David Gordon Green, and a surprise or two.
Filed under: Uncategorized
75. No Country For Old Men
74. There Will Be Blood
73. The Wackness
72. Rescue Dawn
71. Imaginary Heroes
70. The Young Victoria
69. 16 Blocks
67. Black Snake Moan
66. Children of Men
65. The Departed
64. (500) Days of Summer
63. Lars and the Real Girl
62. Pineapple Express
60. Man on the Moon
59. Shotgun Stories
58. The New World
57. Never Forever
56. American Splendor
53. In Bruges
52. A Home at the End of the World
51. The Wrestler
That’s it for the first 50. Next up look forward to more personal picks, many of which had a great, lasting, and quite interesting impact on me, not downplaying the others of course. Included are some Del Toro films, Cameron Crowe, some Rose Byrne, and a Jane Campion film.
Filed under: Uncategorized
100. Mozart and the Whale
98.Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
97. Melinda and Melinda
95. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
93. 28 Days Later
92. The Dark Knight
91. Funny People
90. Funny Games
89. The Tracey Fragments
88. King Kong
87. I’m Not There
86. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
84. Away We Go
83. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
82. Look Both Ways
81. Role Models
79. This is England
78. Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut
77. The Believer
76. The Salton Sea
There you have it, the first (and hardest) leg of the journey to number one. I know that many of you will have problems with these films, I love movies, I love these movies. Then next set offer less shock and more perhaps obvious choices, many recent films. I hope to receive some feedback, I look forward to my next post and I hope you do as well.