December 31st, 2009 | Features | 0 Comments
10. Team America: World Police
Anyone who enjoys the work of Trey Parker and Matt Stone knows that these guys are kind of brilliant. There’s a lot of people who write them off as filthy, lewd and offensive (and they are), but such people often seem to suggest that that should negate the intellectual value of their work. It doesn’t. And again, that’s the genius of it. By making their work so outrageous, they’re able to say anything and attack pretty much anyone and all anyone who doesn’t like them can do is say, “ah, it’s the South Park guys, that’s just what they do.” Team America, a movie made with marionettes, is a satire on America’s balls-out arrogance, celebrity political involvement and the “War On Terror”. The movie is bursting with memorable lines and scenes, like the sex scene, the ridiculously long puke scene and the…ending speech which makes a surprisingly strong case. My friend Kevin’s existence is pretty much embodied by this movie and lines like “I will never die” make up a large part of his dialogue. Oh, and it’s a musical. Seriously, “America, Fuck Yeah”, “I’m So Ronery” and “Montage Song” are all classics. Hopefully Parker and Stone will find it in themselves to give us another classic in the next decade to stand alongside South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut and Team America.
Bet you forgot how much you liked “Under The Milky Way Tonight” and “Mad World” before watching this 80s-centric sci-fi cult classic. That is unless, like me, you were born in the 90s and had never even heard them before this movie. Despite director Richard Kelly’s inability to follow his promising debut with another great movie as of yet, the incredible cast (Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal!), pitch perfect soundtrack and phenomenal, ambiguous metaphysical storyline make this one of the best movies of the decade. Best thing about it is that giant creepy rabbit suit.
8. Judd Apatow Movies (40 Year Old Virgin/Knocked Up/Superbad/Forgetting Sarah Marshall/Funny People)
One day I’ll look back and say that Judd Apatow was the filmmaker of my teenagehood. As lewd and goofy as his movies are, they spoke to me. The greatest thing about them is their portrayal of young, male characters living in the 21st century, which I believe is entirely accurate. Men are portrayed as being goofy, sometimes disgusting, at times off-putting, offensive and misguided, but not without a degree of emotional depth and the potential for maturity. For example, in 40 Year Old Virgin, at the beginning we see all the guys talking about girls and going to a club trying to hook Andy up and such, but later in the movie we see how much they all value emotional connections and their relationships with women and friends in how Paul Rudd mopes over his ex, in how Romany Malco admits that he loves his girlfriend and has been cheating on her because he’s insecure and how Seth Rogan hires a hot girl for Paul Rudd to hook up with and writes a novel in which a son is unable to love due to his fractured relationship with his father.
I also really liked the way in which they never really have villains. Often characters who in lesser movies would typically be ‘bad guys’ (the cops in Superbad, the rival boyfriend in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, even the overbearing sister in Knocked Up) are treated by Apatow and his crew as good people who have been merely been put in a place of antagonism in relation to the protagonist, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be good people, even friends with eachother.
Funny People was a very brave move for Apatow to make and it kind of screwed him over, but hey, that’s what artists do, they don’t play it safe, they don’t just give the people what they want, they take chances and, if they’re talented enough, the audience will come around, even if it takes some time. Filmmakers as great and bankable as Spielberg, Tarantino and Woody Allen have had rough patches both critically and commercially and bounced back stronger than before. In Funny People, Apatow made a great, if dark and somewhat uneven movie, but one which I believe foreshadows even greater and more successful things to come.
Definitely my favorite Spielberg film this decade, Minority Report was a superbly directed adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story. Tom Cruise ably plays the police captain whose own system turns on him when it predicts that he will commit a murder, while a then on-the-rise Colin Farrell plays the young cop determined to catch him. Visually stunning, the film depicts an American society in 2050 in which everyone travels around in automated railcars along huge superhighways and eye-scanners identify and advertise to individuals by name. The only part that seems implausible now is that people will still be reading newspapers by then, even if they do have digital videos in place of still shots.
Watching these two films months apart obscures the enormity of Tarantino’s vision. Rent them and watch them one after another and you’ll be amazed at this grand tale of revenge in which Uma Thurman’s The Bride character travels from West to East and back again to wipe out all those who tried to kill her on her wedding day and took her child away from her. Kick ass kung-fu, stellar Tarantino dialogue, stunning visual style, an amazing soundtrack and the hilarious Pie Mai make this what I believe is Tarantino’s definitive tour de force. The late David Carradine’s ‘Superman speech’ at the end is brilliant. A classic. 5. Sideways
Probably anyone who works for wine company Merlot’s least favorite movie, as Paul Giamatti’s hatred of the brand actually did cause sales to fall after the release. However, this was definitely one of my favorite movies of the decade. As bleak as Giamatti’s 40-something divorce(y, I don’t know how to do the accent thing) English teacher who hasn’t gotten laid in two years’ position is, this movie is still hilarious. Thomas Haden Church’s portrayal of a man-whore actor is by turns one of the funniest things about the movie, while also one of the most tragic, as we find out that (unsuprisingly), his sexual appetite is fueled by his own fear and insecurity. Giamatti gives a multileveled performance that really did deserve an Oscar, and which sadly didn’t even garner a nomination. The movie also features the most accurate depiction of a flop attempted kiss I’ve ever seen.
Using the book not so much as a story as a launching pad, Julian Shnabel’s magnificent, surreal film based on Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir written after a paralyzing stroke is a wonder reminiscent in some ways of Fellini’s 8 1/2. This gorgeous movie about a playboy who finds himself unable to move anything but his left eye never approaches anything near sentimentality, but rather, it serves to remind us how magnificent and magical life is, and to appreciate it and not take time or people for granted, because in an instant, it can all be taken away.
Even in as despicable a situation as Bauby finds himself in, his sense of humor remains just as sharp as ever, while his imagination provides him with freedom and hope. Mathieu Almaric manages to capture all of this in a sharp, touching performance that deservedly boosted his profile, leading to his large role in the last Bond movie, Quantum of Solace.
Finally somebody realized that a Batman story could make a brilliant philosophical piece. And it did. Not only did it have an able, intelligent director in Chris Nolan, a great script courtesy of Nolan and his brother Jonathan, but it had one of the most mindblowing casts anyone could possibly ask for. Even Alfred, the butler was played by Academy Award winning actor Michael Caine! And I know there are those of you who can’t handle Maggie Gyllenhaal’s chutzpa, but she was way better than the boring Katie Holmes any day. And obviously Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker was absolutely as amazing as everyone said it was, fully deserving of the oscar and admittedly, a magnificent role to be remembered for.
By the way, despite the fact the film dealt with the big issues and ideas of privacy vs. security, nihilism vs. order and self sacrifice vs. homicide, it did not stop people from making it the highest grossing movie of the year, earning more than $1 billion worldwide. Hollywood, how much more proof do you need that smart filmmaking makes money!
Three films, all pretty much over three hours long. It didn’t matter how many endings Return Of The King had, I still did not want this fantastic story to end. How Peter Jackson pulled it all off is truly beyond me, it seems superhuman but somehow he did it. It was huge, it was long, detailed, beautiful, epic: it was the Star Wars of my generation. And what a cast, whether it was old power players like Ian Mckellan, Chistopher Lee or Hugo Weaving or the stars the movie made like Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom and Elijah Wood, everyone seemed to rise to the challenge of making these movies some of the most incredible in recent memory. Special shout out to Andy Serkis and the WETA team as well for Golum, who was perhaps the most memorable character from the movie and had the largest impact on pop culture.
Charlie Kaufman is to North American cinema today what Woody Allen was 30 years ago (and still sometimes occasionally is): intelligent, neurotic, surreal, lovesick, original, classic…Jewish…His ideas and movies are weird, deep and metaphysical, while at the same time wholly accessible, fundamentally human and genuinely funny and entertaining. They are the perfect merger of soulful, intellectual European filmmaking with the qualities that make Hollywood blockbusters: high levels of action, drama, comedy and romance. There are moments so daring and honest in his films that you wonder how they could allow this on film as well as how this could never have been shown before. So daring and honest that I don’t even want to reference them! Whether working as his own director or with other visionaries like Spike Jonze and Michelle Gondry (even George Clooney, who apparently did not honor Kaufman’s vision with Confessions…), what appears on the screen seems to suggest infinite possibilities for the medium of film, and suggest that they might still even be quite profitable.
Anytime Kaufman makes a movie, it’s something to get excited for because it’s something new, something exciting and personal. It lets me know what’s going on in Kaufman’s mind, in Kaufman’s world, and that’s what I believe art should be: a means of connection people, emotion and ideas in ways that transcend language and make us realize that perhaps we’re not so different after all on some level. Thank you, Charlie Kaufman. For that. Now please go make more movies.