Day 2 of my favorite movies of the decade list (for my Slices of Fried Gold: The Decades Edition) is upon us, with today breaking down my 20th to 16th favorite films of the decade. Before we go to that here is a link to numbers 25 through 21 and see below for what preceded this list:
24. In Good Company
23. In Bruges
22. Everything is Illuminated
21. The Departed
20. Wall-E (Directed by Andrew Stanton, written by Stanton, Pete Docter and Jim Reardon - 2008)
Pixar, as I said in my breakdown of Up, is the apex of filmmaking in the 2000’s. While some filmmakers may have had higher highs than Pixar, there is no company that is more automatic in terms of quality than Pixar. Of course, even for them Wall-E is an enigma. This is a movie that is effectively silent for the entire first act, has a protagonist whose primary goals in life are to make cubes of trash, find weird knick knacks, and to hold someone’s hand, and basically a pretty obvious statement about humanity’s mass consumerism and overconsumption. Oh yeah, and the perception is it’s a children’s movie.
When Pixar is involved you should always expect the unexpected, as this film may be serious at times but it is every bit as entertaining a romp as any of their other films to date. Wall-E, the incredibly likeable robot protagonist, is another pantheon level character for Pixar, delivering as much emotion with slight sounds and mannerisms as the best actors today can with an intense love monologue. Not only that, but Thomas Newman provides a completely brilliant score to this film, as the music involved with this is a very important aspect throughout (especially the excerpts from musical “Hello Dolly!”). While everything about this movie is a bit out of the ordinary (and strangely hasn't stood up to repeat viewings as well as other Pixar flicks have), it’s hard to argue that this is one of the best, and most unconventional, love stories of the decade.
19. Snatch (Written and directed by Guy Ritchie - 2000)
When this movie first came out, I saw it in theaters with my mom. We were both big fans of Guy Ritchie’s first movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and were very excited for this. That was a Friday. By the end of the weekend, I’d seen it three times, twice more with my friends (who also love this). While Lock, Stock was incredible in its own right, Snatch really was the culmination of Ritchie’s incredibly stylish and massively entertaining British gangster flicks. While he’s returned to form with RocknRolla to a certain degree, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll make something that is as sprawling, hilarious, and deliciously dirty as this ever again.
Ritchie’s style really brings a lot to this flick, as his quick cutting was still fresh back in 2000, his sprawling soundtrack that touches on many genres and era’s but always entertains, and biting and quotable script really form the backbone of this movie. It helps that he had an incredible cast to lean upon, with Benicio Del Toro, Jason Statham (minus kung fu, plus gangster charisma), Rade Šerbedžija, Vinnie Jones (“he…dodges bullets Avi…”), and Dennis Farina bringing the awesome throughout. They all pale in comparison to Brad Pitt in this movie though. Pitt plays a pikey bare-knuckle boxer named Mickey who speaks in an intense accent that is as ridiculous as you’ll likely ever hear, and Pitt gives the performance a level of gusto and hilarity that makes him steal every scene he’s in. Hell, he’s the only performance that features a laugh that is quotable (or at least I try to). An incredibly entertaining crime flick that somehow gets better with additional viewings.
18. About a Boy (Written and directed by Paul and Chris Weitz, co-written by Peter Hedges – 2002)
About a Boy is my favorite Nick Hornby adaptation of the decade (of which there were many, with Fever Pitch and High Fidelity also joining the ranks), and while it is another film that isn’t anything technically incredible, there is something to be said about a film that is so effortlessly charming and so emotionally true. While there are many reasons for this movie being so exceptional (Badly Drawn Boy’s delightful soundtrack, an exceptional supporting cast, a funny and surprising script), the two biggest reasons are the two protagonists: Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult.
Hugh Grant plays Will, a romantic lead who for once is completely and utterly despicable. He goes to meetings for single parents to pick up women (he even invents a child), he takes on a kid so he can pretend even better, and even defers from being a friend’s daughter’s Godfather, as he readily admits he’s likely to shag her when she turns 18. The kid he takes on is Marcus (Hoult), an awkward kid without real friends and with a depressed mother who recently tried to kill herself. This pair ends up being quite perfect, as Will (effortlessly cool, through and through) helps Marcus learn how to be comfortable in his own skin and to help repair his family life, while Marcus teaches Will how to be a decent person who doesn’t lie to build relationships. Their relationship is the core of the film, and allows it to be the heartwarming charmer it could have been.
17. The Constant Gardener (Directed by Fernando Meirelles, written by Jeffrey Caine - 2005)
This is where I have to admit a horrible, horrible truth about myself: I’ve never seen Meirelles’ film City of God. City of God is one of the most well reviewed films of the decade and the 17th highest rated film in IMDB’s top 250, but for some reason I’ve never seen this Brazilian stunner. Yet, I have seen Meirelles’ follow up The Constant Gardener, and it is a stylish and deeply emotional film, filled with power, politics and intrigue through and through. This film is told in a non-linear style that allows this film to avoid being a downer and instead slowly build the emotional power, developing the relationship between the two leads (a husband and wife played by Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes) while simultaneously having Fiennes slowly but surely unravel the mystery of Weisz’s death, and the unfortunate circumstances that surround it.
While Weisz is the one who received the Oscar for this film (deservedly so, she’s utterly entrancing while on screen), it’s Fiennes who gives a career performance in this film. His Justin Quayle is a devastated wreck, desperate to find the truth wherever he can and becoming more and more distraught as he gains more wisdom. The relationship between Fiennes and Weisz is one of the most organic and touching ones of the decade, as the scenes that are weaved into his search form the emotional backbone of this incredibly powerful film. Combine that with a tale of deceit and real world meaning, and you have another incredibly underrated film from this decade.
16. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Directed by Peter Jackson, written by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh – 2001)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy was one of the most epic undertakings of the decade, as it was a huge risk by all involved. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent, a lengthy and robust tale of fantasy told, and an uncertain (but large) fan base confronted this series, but thanks to Peter Jackson, Howard Shore, and a very talented cast this film showed that they had nothing to fear from the beginning. Some prefer the more action oriented Two Towers or the finale Return of the King (the Academy definitely did), but not I. Fellowship of the Ring captured the spirit of the series best, pairing lighthearted fun, big adventure, intense action, tight pacing, and a joy that was often missing from the last two installments. Pound for pound, this was the best in my mind, and that’s saying something from this powerhouse trilogy. I’d go more into detail about this film, but pretty much every and their mother (mine loves it) has seen this series. Rest assured though, it is worth all the accolades that were placed upon it.