Thursday, December 31, 2009

Big Mike's Top Films of the Decade, Part 3

10. About A Boy (2002)

Hugh Grant gives his finest, his favorite and his most natural performance in About A Boy, a film that could have fallen into more than a dozen movie clich├ęs, but instead becomes something very touching by belying it’s story with relatable characters in real situations. A strong British cast and a director who insisted on keeping it British-based like the novel by Nick Horby, combine to make a film would shun conventional wisdom and become a new type of film in the romantic comedy genre. Divorce, suicide and drug use may have been slightly more taboo in 2002, (no rhyme intended) but Will, Marcus, Fiona, Ellie, Rachel and Ali manage to come together and carve out a life for themselves amongst their unique island chain that more closely resembles the familial units of today that perhaps any other movie before or since it.

9. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Very few romantic comedies actually get to be funny, touching and realistic all at once which makes Forgetting Sarah Marshall so unforgettable (pun intended.). With a great script and leading turn from Jason Segal made his Peter Brenner such a lovable character, you sympathized with him instantly. But, the performances of the other Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Russell Brand made a much more profound story of people caught up in each other’s love lives, where nobody is the villain and even our hero needs to work on himself. It’s a very personal and moving film beneath the full frontal male nudity and puppet musicals, Forgetting Sarah Marshall stands as one of the best pure romantic comedies of all time.

8. Iron Man (2008)

The second best comic book movie on this list, for being able to do what The Dark Knight did better. By making Tony Stark a human character with very real flaws and setting the story in a world we recognize, director Jon Favreau blew the lid off of the summer last year for Marvel comics, die hard comic geeks, mainstream audiences, rival studios and oh yea, a little actor named Robert Downey Jr. Although he never really left, Iron Man was his overhand right knockout punch of a comeback that solidified him not only as one of our most talented actors, but a bonafide movie star.

7. Amelie (2001)

Exaggeration aside, it is extremely difficult NOT to fall in love with Audrey Tautou’s Amelie and her fabulous destiny. A romantic fantasy of a movie with a look that goes hand in hand with the main character, Amelie was a movie that made casual moviegoers take a second look at foreign films, but honestly, I just fall to pieces every time that I watch it. Even though the outcome is predictable enough after the first viewing, you fall in love with Amelie and hope for her to find love and find herself all over again.

6. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Combining zombies, British romantic comedies and a fast paced visual style that matched the tone of the picture; Shaun of the Dead was a bit of fried gold in a genre that had long gone stale.Action comedies had died off in the early Nineties, along with horror films, but here was a movie that never took itself too seriously, but was dead on (pun intended) as both a great film and a loving homage to it’s numerous influences. Scary, hilarious and touching, the movie and its creators managed to achieve what many movies fail to even aspire to become and that’s why you find it on most lists for this decade.

5. The Aviator (2004)

The second Scorsese movie on the list already, but it was probably a more personal film than even Gangs of New York. The story of Howard Hughes follows him from a young film director to aviation pioneer and shows us his relentless drive for perfection, the toll it takes on his personal life and what it means to struggle and fight for your vision. Sound familiar? Scorsese also seamlessly weaves in brilliant performances from everyone in the cast including DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, Alan Alda and Alec Baldwin while shooting the film not only in period, but also in the cinematic style of the period from two-strip color film to dazzling Technicolor. One of his many underrated masterpieces, in the end, it might hold up better than a lot of his other films.

4. The Prestige (2006)

This might have been the movie I watched the most times in this decade, if for no other reason than I was determined to discover the secret of Borden’s trick. But, that’s not important in hindsight, because The Prestige is an amazing film that is not only a meditation on cinema itself, but plays with the very idea of entertainers, audiences and the relationship between the two of them. A lot of people talk about seeing something new every time they watch a movie, but The Prestige is a film in which it’s actually true. Chris Nolan made this movie in between both Batman films and matures so nicely as a director, it’s exciting to think about what he will bring in the 10’s with Inception and a third Batman film.

3. Children of Men (2006)

Though Children of Men certainly has its detractors, the movie has made several best of the 00’s lists and for good reason. Coming of the critical success of his installment of Harry Potter, director Alfonso Cuaron co-wrote and directed the science fiction story of a future where humankind is going extinct and made an amazing movie by focusing on the simple plotline of ‘get the girl to the boat.’ Clive Owen gives probably his best performance as Theo, a disillusioned former revolutionary, who becomes the reluctant hero that might just save mankind. But, the movie just pulls you into the story with a stark vision of the future that every day looks more and more likely and combines it with very simple characters trying to change the world and make a new future.

2. The Departed (2006)

The first of a few Scorsese movies on this list, The Departed is unique on the 2000’s because it is the one film that is really Scorsese in his comfort zone. A cop and robbers story set against the backdrop of Boston and Irish Americans (yes, it is important to note that.) he goes back to theGoodfellas style of directing and pulls out all the tricks, winning himself his Academy Award at long last. But, for me the film is all about the performances of the two leads, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. That both were ignored in the award season that year is more criminal that anything else in the movie. Even when you can start to sense every twist and turn in the story, Leo and Matty keep you on edge and manage to make you fearful for both of their lives, never knowing which one you really want to side with. And isn’t that a great theme for the film?

1. The Dark Knight (2008)

What can I say about this movie a year after its release that I haven’t said over and over again on this blog? Forget about the Academy Awards, the billion-dollar box office, the brilliant performances of Heath Ledger, Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart, and the amazing talent of Chris Nolan as director and writer, the IMAX images, the breathtaking action sequences and the horrifying realistic themes of the film. The Dark Knight is just pure entertainment, a crime story, a comic book movie, and a political and social commentary and hands down one of the most fantastic movies I’ve ever seen in my life. I said it that morning after I walked out of the theatre and I will stand by it for the next several decades.


The Mad Hatter said...

Great choices all was this ever a swell decade for movies!

Big Mike Mendez said...

A good decade all around and 2006 was a great year in particular.

Erin said...

I was just thinking to myself yesterday while reading part 2 of your list, "About A Boy better be on this list of his". I knew you wouldn't let me down. =)

Happy New Year, Big Mike Mendez.

<3 Erin

schaggydog said...

Great list overall. So glad to see About a Boy on there as well, I love that film! I tend to feel 2005 was one of the better years, but that's just me. I liked Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but nowhere near as much as most, and apparently that includes you. Maybe I just need to give it another watch.