Sunday, 24 January 2010

Vic's Top 25 Films of the Decade

Since all the critics are doing it, I thought I’d better make my own list of the top 25 films of the decade. Before I start, it might be worthwhile to remind you that this is not a list of what I think are the 25 best films of the decade, but the 25 films that impacted me the most. How well a film is made is obviously an important criterion for me, but at least five other criteria also come into play, including 1) the WOW factor; 2) how well the film contributes to humanization; 3) its exposure of the truth in peace and justice issues; 4) its treatment of violence; and 5) an intelligent thought-provoking screenplay (the most important normal criterion for me - more important than acting, directing, cinematography, music, etc.). And it also helps to be quirky.

Okay, counting down my 25 top films of the decade (yeah, I know, there are two 25s; I couldn’t decide which one to leave off the list):

25. Doubt - With brilliant performances by Hoffman and Streep, memorable scenes and an intelligent thought-provoking screenplay by director John Patrick Shanley, this film probes deeply into questions about doubt, progress and human nature.

25. Me and You and Everyone We Know - Wonderfully quirky comedy drama, directed by, and starring, Miranda July, is about making connections in the 21st century.

24. The Visitor - Profoundly moving without being sentimental, this incredibly subtle film by Tom McCarthy is wonderfully humanizing and looks gorgeous.

23. Spider - David Cronenberg’s best film, though he’s been making one gem after another this millennium. Ralph Fiennes is magnificent as the mentally-disturbed protagonist.

22. Hero - My favourite film by Yimou Zhang, though everything he’s done has been great (he’s my favourite Asian director). This Rashomon-like film about one man’s unique “war” is both gorgeous and thought-provoking.

21. 13 Conversations About One Thing - My favourite kind of film, this one from Jill Sprecher is about how our lives intersect and the meaning of life and happiness.

20. The Edge of Heaven - Fatih Akin’s film about people learning to see things differently by encountering those “on the other side” (the original German title) features marvellous natural performances and beautiful cinematography.

19. All or Nothing - My favourite Mike Leigh film (he’s my favourite British director). This one is about despair and hope for a dysfunctional lower class family in London.

18. The Fountain - A gorgeous endlessly discussable film from Darren Aronofsky (who made another of my favourite films of the decade, Requiem for a Dream) that reveals something different to every viewer.

17. O Brother Where Art Thou - My favourite Coen Brothers film (and I like everything they do, so that’s saying something). This is a typically quirky (and hilarious) Coen outing; unusual for the Coens are its thoughts about God/spirituality.

16. The Quiet American - A great old-fashioned Graham Greene spy story based in 1950s Vietnam, beautifully directed by Phillip Noyce.

15. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - My favourite German director, Tom Tykwer, just wowed me with this strange tale of a murderer who wants to create the ultimate perfume. A mixture of fairy tale, allegory and black comedy, it’s a work of poetic art.

14. Minority Report - No director has more films in my top 150 (all-time) than Steven Spielberg. This time it’s my favourite sci-fi film of the decade. Brilliantly done.

13. The Edukators - Another brilliantly-made film, this is a German romance/thriller (both work well) from Hans Weingartner about three young activists trying to get the rich to think about how they contribute to the plight of the poor. The characters and story are very well-developed and thoughtful.

12. Waking Life - One thought-provoking scene after another in this animated film from Richard Linklater (who has made three more of my favourite films, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and A Scanner Darkly - the latter two would have made my top 30 of the decade). These films are all about the meaning of life and you can’t make too many thoughtful films on this subject.

11. Chocolat - An absolutely delightful comedy drama from Lasse Hallstrom with much to say on the subjects of change, community, and the church.

10. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner - There are very few films made about the Inuit people. This is an awesome work of cinematic art that tells us the profound story (legend) of a vanished culture.

9. The Constant Gardener - Another classic spy story (and love story); this one exposes the truth behind the drug industry in Africa and is based on a novel by John le Carre. It’s directed by Fernando Meirelles and features another great performance by Ralph Fiennes.

8. Silent Light - Am I biased because I’ve met, and had a long conversation with, the director, Carlos Reygadas, or because all the actors in the film are Mennonites? Maybe, but I find it hard to imagine not loving such a gorgeous thoughtful spiritual film. It felt so real, I thought I was there, participating in the life of the Mexican Mennonite community as it dealt with the grand themes of love, death and forgiveness.

7. Crash - Wonderful humanizing film from Paul Haggis about racism and the intersecting lives of a group of people in Los Angeles. Some of the best scenes I have seen in years (including my favorite scene of the decade).

6. Moulin Rouge - The WOW film of the decade for me. Hey, you start a film with Ewan McGregor singing a song from The Sound of Music and you’ve got my attention - and it just kept getting better - wonderful maniacal musical from Baz Luhrmann.

5. U23D - This passionate plea for the world’s religions to lead the way in making the world a more just and peaceful place is one of the most inspiring and hopeful film of the decade and, just for good measure, it throws in some of the best rock songs ever written. Arguably the best concert, and concert film, of all time.

4. As it is in Heaven - Never heard of it, you say? Indeed, very few people have. It’s a travesty that this inspiring Swedish gem about a community in northern Sweden was, despite the above poster, so rarely seen in the English-speaking world, and is not even available on video in North America, as far as I know. Everyone needs to see it. Directed by Kay Pollak.

3. The Lives of Others - a perfectly-made film in every respect from director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. This is a wonderfully humanizing tale of the struggle to be a good person, specifically in the repressive world of East Berlin in 1984. This is what life is all about, and this is what great filmmaking is all about.

2. Joyeux Noel - Marvelous anti-war film form Christian Carion dares to make the church complicit in war and dehumanization while also suggesting that this is not the way of Jesus. Sure it’s a flawed melodramatic film, but it’s one of the most important films based on real events ever made.

1. The Lord of the Rings (the eleven and a half hour extended version of all three films viewed as one film) - I read Tolkien’s classic in the early seventies (when I was in my teens) and dreamt of the possibility that I would live long enough to see it filmed. That I wasn’t disappointed when it happened is cause enough to make it my favourite film of the decade. That this film is not only a magnificent epic tale beautifully filmed but also an inspiring story about love and loyalty and self-sacrifice and death and so on is just icing on the cake. Peter Jackson, thank you!

1 comment:

  1. Scary thing, - to read this list of 25 top films of the decade, with the growing worry whether I've seen ANY of them! but then eventually there were about 5 of them ... including one that I got to see together with Vic!
    Thinking positively: lots of good stuff out there for me to see. thanks, vic. jjf