A Slice of Fried Gold

Favorite Movies of the Decade: 25 - 21

Monday, October 19, 2009
For my second run of my Slices of Fried Gold: The Decade Edition special, I'm now onto Favorite Movies of the Decade - note the usage of "favorite" instead of "best" here. As some have discussed, this was not the strongest decade of movies, as in many ways it was surpassed by television in terms of being a dramatic visual medium. Yet, there is still a ton of good that came from this decade and it was a unique one (at least for me) in that animated film was the dominant genre for the decade. In fact, between Studio Ghibli and Pixar, you could make a pretty damn amazing top 10 for the decade.

No less, before we get started there are a few notes I want to make. As with the music list I did recently, there is weighting towards those that exhibit longevity. In fact, movies are something I really add value to if it stands up when I watch it again. Sadly, this works both ways as a number of movies that I loved at first don't work as well on later viewings. With all that said, onto the just missed list and then on to numbers 25 to 21.

Last cuts: Gladiator, Monsters Inc., Super Troopers, No Country for Old Men, Signs, Spirited Away, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Serenity, Goodbye Lenin!, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

25. Up (Written and directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson – 2009)

The last spot was down to Up and The Big Lebowski, and it was a tough decision. Given my emphasis on rewatchability, the fact that I put a movie from 2009 on the list is kind of crazy. How am I supposed to know whether or not this movie is rewatchable eternally, even if I have seen it three times in theaters, especially given the fact that it is up against the fearsome competition of Lebowski, which features one of the all time greatest protagonist in Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski. It’s pretty easy actually…Up is just so damn uplifting, funny and emotionally resonant that it is impossible to ignore. If I was going just off how I feel now, I would likely put this near the top. However, film is a medium that demands time to marinate. Sometimes you love movies at first (Slumdog Millionaire, Garden State) to find out later that they simply do not compute as well on later viewings.

But Up, of all films, is one that I feel confidently in the fact that it will stand up to the test of time. Pete Docter and Bob Peterson craft a truly original film that creates some of the all time greatest characters in the pantheon of Pixar. In fact, that helps greatly in my confidence that this will be rewatchable – as you will see on this list, Pixar defined this decade greater than any other creator(s) out there. They are the gold standard of film today, and as it stands right now I’d be hard pressed to pick a better movie in their history than Up.

24. In Good Company (Written and directed by Paul Weitz - 2004)

In Good Company is not going to go down as one of the best movies of the decade on nearly any list out there. Thankfully this is a favorite movie list, not a best movie list, so that factor never comes into play. I think the biggest reason why I love this movie so much is the fact that it is completely rewatchable (its strange charm never wears thin), the soundtrack is incredibly underrated (the Shins are repeatedly featured, including my favorite track by them), and, most of all, Topher Grace’s performance as Carter Duryea is fantastic. Not only that, but I see a lot of myself in Carter, as he is a young marketing professional struggling to find his identity in life and to figure out what he really wants, not just what he should want. Just like me.

Grace does a wonderful job of making the corporate latter climbing and somewhat toolish Duryea not just likeable, but relatable. In many ways, it’s like seeing myself up on the screen, as I am torn by a dichotomy of life goals – standard, career oriented success or finding happiness in life itself. Throw in the fact that I also hooked up with my older subordinate’s busty college age daughter, and it’s like David Harper: Biography on screen. Okay, maybe that last part is untrue, but I can say besides that aspect, I’ve connected with very few roles as well as I have this one. A unique trait to be had, and something that really takes this movie to the next level for me.

23. In Bruges (Written and directed by Martin McDonagh - 2008)

Discussions about when you can punch women. Insulting hefty American tourists. Karate chopping little people that are under the influence of cocaine. Debates about the value of visiting a place such as Bruges. Shootouts in European cities. Figuring out whether or not alcoves is the word you are ooking for. Settling the debate as to who would win in a fight: the blacks or the whites.

These are but a few of the things that take place within Martin McDonagh’s film In Bruges, which is an uproarious and incredibly touching film that came out of nowhere to become an absolute powerhouse favorite of mine. I loved it when I first saw it, but now that it’s come onto cable I’ve made the realization that this is one of the most bizarrely quotable movies of the decade, mostly thanks to McDonagh’s script and bravura performances from Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes. In fact, you could make the argument that this is far and away the best performance of Farrell’s career, as he not only delivers some of the most hilarious lines with uncanny timing and glee, but he also provides the emotional core of the film as the haunted hitman coming off a botched first job. Surprisingly powerful and entertaining throughout, In Bruges is one of the more underrated gems of the 00’s.

22. Everything is Illuminated (Written and directed by Liev Schreiber) - 2005

Before this film, Liev Schreiber had existed eternally as one of the most recognizable “that guy’s” out there (to take a play from Bill Simmons’ extensive book). When he took the leap to writer/director with this adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s memoir, it was with much uncertainty. Yet he proved that we had little to fear, as his deft direction makes this as beautiful a film visually as it is emotionally, depicting how the past in all forms is not something we can hide from and the unique bond that could form between a trio of very disparate people and a dog named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.

While the performance of Elijah Wood as Foer is very strong for what it is (reserved, meek outsider who is searching for something), the true powerhouse performances in this are from Gogol Bordello’s lead singer Eugene Hutz as the freshest guy in Ukraine Alex and Boris Leskin as his grandfather. These two performances cover opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, with the former performance being a textured and very funny comedic performance, and the latter being a quietly eccentric and deeply affecting emotional performance. Both are extremely unique performances, and in many ways ascend to the levels of lead by the very end. While it starts out as a journey for Foer, what this film ends up being is something entirely different. A beautiful, charming, and emotional film that is very underrated.

21. The Departed (Directed by Martin Scorcese, written by William Monahan - 2006)

Oddly enough the only Best Picture Oscar winner on my entire list and one of only two nominees for that illustrious category that make my top 25, but this was one that was very difficult to ignore. This film found legendary director Martin Scorcese on his A game, an incredibly talented and deep cast (when Jack Nicholson is your weakest link, you know it’s a pretty strong cast), and a script that is laden with intrigue and double crosses at every corner.

It is fairly evident from its pedigree as to why it could have been a good movie, but the fact that everyone involved actually managed to pull it together to bring put together a cohesive narrative that is filled with enough tension to stress out the most calm and collected of viewers is pretty damn incredible. While everyone is superb in this film, the best two performances in this film come from Leonardo DiCaprio as undercover cop Billy Costigan (always in too deep but perpetually maintaining his cover against the greatest of odds) and Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg in particular does a lot with his limited amount of time, being the right hand man to Martin Sheen’s Captain Queenan, a perpetual thorn in the side of both DiCaprio and Matt Damon’s characters sides, and basically the most badass character ever simultaneously. A great performance in a film filled with them.


Sara said...

Amen on the rewatchability of Garden State. Man, I loved that movie when I first saw it... then felt super lame after watching it again.

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