best movies of the decade

The second in the PopRox Best of the Decade Series: Best movies of the 00’s

You don’t quite realize how difficult it is to choose the five best movies of the decade until you sit down and really think about it.

A couple of factors went into my decisions:

–How did I feel when I first saw it? Sometimes it takes a second viewing of a movie to truly appreciate it. I thought Dark Knight was somewhat disappointing when I saw it in the theater the first time, but after watching it a couple times since then, I am pretty comfortable in saying that I don’t think I have ever been so wrong in my initial judgement of a movie. For whatever reason, sometimes movies don’t click in theaters, be it because of length, what you had to do to get to that movie, you stepped in a piece of gum under your seat, it doesn’t matter. That notwithstanding, a movie still needs to grab you the first time you see it. So no Dark Knight in this list, even though it would be one of the movies under consideration.

sorry clint. sorry hillary. i just don't find you guys as interesting as i did the first time.

sorry clint. sorry hillary. i just don't find you guys as interesting as i did the first time.

–Can you watch it 100 times and not get tired of it? Some movies are just fantastic the first time you see it, but three years later when you’re flipping through AMC you see something like Million Dollar Baby, do you make some kind of yelping noise and excitedly tune in, or do you pass right by it? That movie was my #3 of 2004, but I haven’t watched it since despite copious opportunities. But if Cinderella Man is on TNT, I’m stopping. It would easily be in front of Million Dollar Baby (but it doesn’t make this list).  

–I’m not picking anything I picked for best comediesyesterday. Royal Tenenbaums would be on this list in a heartbeat, but I’d rather qualify it as a comedy and I’d rather give something else a chance.

–There has to be some level of universal acceptance of it as a great movie. I think Clue and Real Genius are two of the funniest movies ever made — but I wouldn’t put either of them in my best movies of the 80s. I’m aware they’re funny — but I’m also aware they’re not good movies.

–They have to be somewhat accessible. I’m a man of the people. You should watch all kinds of movies, but you don’t have to go to three different Blockbusters before you find that movie from Hungary.

So here they are, the five best movies of the double-0s. I can’t bring myself to rank them, but they’re the best movies of the decade. In parentheses is where the movie ranked when I made my original yearly rankings:

Almost Famous(#1, 2000): Maybe the most rewatchable movie of the decade, and definitely the one that made me lose the most sleep. TBS was notorious for playing this at like 2:45 a.m., right when I was going to bed for a while. So I’d tell myself, “OK, just through the early Lester Bangs parts,” then it was “I want to see Billy Crudup say he’s on drugs,” or “I want to see Jason Lee say ‘Your looks have become a problem!” and next thing you knew, the sun was coming up. You can’t watch a minute of this movie and not want to see the end. That’s called timelessness, people. BEST LINE: “You wanna see me feed a mouse to my snake?” “YESSS!!!” It also gave us the best music-movie moment of the decade:

Adaptation(#1, 2002): It’s been in the Sundance rotation lately and has reminded me about how much I love this movie and how easy it is for a struggling writer like me to relate to the problems of Charlie Kaufman. Granted, his problems and resulting demented-ness is on a far grander scale than I could ever dream, but when you struggle on a daily basis to write the best words of your life, words anyone on the planet could see if they wanted to, it’s a tough gig. Nicolas Cage conveys that struggle of the notoriously neurotic Kaufman brilliantly and pitch-perfectly and every single, solitary word of the script is just as important as the last one. Kaufman has had his misfires lately — Synecdoche, New York is an unmitigated mess — but there isn’t a more interesting writer in Hollywood right now. You’re not going to like everything he does because it’s so far from the mainstream it’s impossible for everyone to relate with. But his track record demands you sit through everything he puts his name on. BEST LINE: “My genre’s thriller, what’s yours?”

The Departed(#2, 2006, beaten by Children of Men): My biggest waffle over the years. Loved it when I saw it. Thought about it for a couple weeks and liked it less. Thought about Jack Nicholson’s performance more and liked it even less. Saw Marky Mark get an Oscar nomination for a performance I thought was junk and liked it even less. Then I rewatched it on DVD and loved it again. And I’ve been catching it on FX and love it even more. It’s a tailor-made You Notice Something New Every Time You Watch It movie. Leo DiCaprio may give one of the best performances of the decade in this, but he didn’t get a nomination for it. He’s simply captivating and you can understand my Martin Scorsese wants him in every movie he makes. Mob movies are tough to do because you don’t know what’s embellished, what’s real and what’s just plain fabricated. I don’t really believe that Sonny Corleone could just be shot at a toll booth on the Long Island Expressway and the mob can just get away with it. But for some reason, I have no problem believing you can drop a police sergeant off a roof and no one would care one way or the other. BEST LINE: “What are you, one of those fitness freaks?” Bad language alert in this clip:

Juno(#1, 2007): Perhaps the most perfectly crafted movie of the decade. It’s almost impossible to find a flaw in it. Ellen Page probably should have gotten the Oscar, because when you see her in another movie, it’s hard to separate her from Juno. Maybe that’s because she’s only taking Juno-type parts, but still. It took me about three viewings to realize, “Holy sh!t, this movie is the reunion between Michael Bluth and George Michael Bluth, and they don’t have one scene together!!!” That’s a great movie. When you can completely forget about the actors and fall square into their laps as believable, real people outside of the other roles they’ve done, it’s music to every one’s ears and a reward to the viewer. Every actor in this movie went completely out of their perceived comfort zones — Ellen Page was known only for X-Men 3 as a girl who could walk through walls, for crissakes — and made a beautiful piece of art. This could be Diablo Cody’s one-hit wonder. BEST LINE: “Next time I see that Bleeker kid I’m going to punch him in the wiener.”

Spider-Man 2 (#2, 2004, beaten by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind): The more I watch it, the more I’m convinced. Not only is it the best comic-book movie ever, but it’s the best action movie ever. There isn’t a second of dullness, and even the exposition is exciting. I saw it with my wife, who had barely ever heard of Spider-Man before. When we came out, she wanted to know everything. EVERYTHING. That’s the kind of effect this movie has on fans and non-fans alike. The only detriment is the continued horrendous acting of James Franco as Harry Osbourne. I just thought he was a horrible actor, but he’s been very good lately in Milk and Pineapple Express, so it’s not that he’s a bad actor, he’s just bad in this. Very, very bad. Still, before any director is hired to make a comic book movie, the studio should ask the question: “Have you seen Spider-Man 2?” If the answer is no, move on to the next candidate. It’s also the best trailer of the decade and the train sequence is the best action scene ever filmed. BEST LINE: “I’m back! I’m back! … My back … my back!”

Just missed: Requiem for a Dream, Gladiator, Billy Elliot, Memento, Oceans 11, Spider Man (but not 3), 8 Mile, About a Boy, Lord of the Rings 2 Towers (but not the other 2), Kill Bill Vol. 2 (but not so much Vol. 1), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Miracle, Sideways, Batman Begins, Cinderella Man, Good Night and Good Luck, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Vengeance Trilogy, Squid and the Whale, Children of Men, Little Miss Sunshine, Pan’s Labyrinth, Once, No Country for Old Men, Sin City, Dark Knight, The Wrestler, Inglourious Basterds and I’m sure I’m missing others.

Very overrated: Brokeback Mountain

So overrated and well-received they make me want to vomit: Dogville, L’Enfant, Letters from Iwo Jima, Half Nelson

TOMORROW: Best TV shows of the decade

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