Friday, January 1, 2010

tMF Top 50: Best Movies of the 2000s (50-41)

tMF Top 50: Best Movies of the 2000s (50-41)
Editors Note: This week our resident film critic David DiMichele will count down the top 50 best films of the decade.  Today we will look at the first ten from the list and unveil a new portion of the list each day until we get to the number one film of this past decade.

The countdown starts after the jump.

50. The Dark Knight (2008)

This nocturnal epic of a nightmare can be a metaphor to what may await America. With President-elect Obama ready to step in and lay a new foundation over a rundown America that is suffering from economic issues, bailout options, unemployment and the always looming threat of a terrorist attack, director Christopher Nolan conceives such unfavorable situations and employs them in a world that usually doesn’t deal with such catastrophes. He dominates the comic book atmosphere of Batman like no one has ever done with jokers, white knights, dark knights and a society that falls under each of their thumbs without knowing. Schemes are concocted to lead an unstable society, and even Christian Bale’s Batman, into a state of frenzy all the while the planner, the Joker (played by the late Heath Ledger), sits back waiting for them to tear themselves to shreds. Hope is what all people want but where to look for it, if we’re lucky enough to find it, remains to be the unsolved problem; who can we really trust? 

49. Eastern Promises (2007)

In another successful collaboration with director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence), Viggo Mortensen is nothing less than a visionary on screen. If there’s a group of people you don’t want to get in too deep with it’s the Russian Mafia. They have no mercy for any of their victims and we explore their world with such detail as Cronenberg invites us to be part of this dark world. Filled with underlying trusts, morals, and family values, Eastern Promises more than delivers it satisfies the hungry heart. Cronenberg likes to create movies that essentially stick with you long after the movie is over. This film is no different. This happens to be the director's best work to date. A second viewing only enriches it more. Eastern Promises catches you off guard and floors you.

48. Far From Heaven (2002)

As far as moral and business standards of the 1950s are concerned audiences and studios heads alike would have been biting their nails apprehensively at what unfolds on screen in Todd Haynes’ melodramatic film. But it’s not the 50s and he brings the goods in scenes that demand our emotions to twist and turn. He mixes prejudices (Julianne Moore’s character in a subtle relationship with her black gardener) and homosexuality (Moore’s husband Dennis Quaid gladly but hesitantly in an affair with a young man) , that during the 50s were two issues that were more than just frowned upon. Our society today has come to know this pre-historic time period as a ‘Leave it to Beaver’ type spotless model but Haynes shows just how far this society is from heaven.

47. 2046 (2004)

A writer longs for love in Wong Kar Wai’s film solely based on lost love. He writes about the future where a train boards passengers who want to recapture lost memories. But the writer is actually writing about his past. 2046 stands also for the hotel room number where he had a sexual relationship with a woman he wants back again. The movie is a blunt exposition on how love ravishes the human body; both eternally and, most detrimental, internally. Characters are so richly displayed that it is odd that they are all made-up externally where as their souls are tormented with loneliness. A void that needs only to be filled by love, and not merely sexual content. Wai’s direction flourishes as it knows nothing visual that could bore an audience. Splashes of color, a hyper-kinetic narrative and instances of blurry slow-motion shots indicating the sadness suffocating the characters due to a lack of love fill every frame of 2046.

46. 21 Grams (2003)

A convict who is trying to become a born again Christian (Benecio Del Toro), a woman distraught after her husband and two little girls are killed in a hit and run accident (Naomi Watts), and a man slowly dying who is in need of a desperate heart transplant (Sean Penn), all find themselves intertwined in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s 21 Grams. It is a time weaving film that involves us knowing more than the characters do at some points. Inarritu positions his films so they contain scenes of such urgency, times of panic, and he’ll normally cool us off with some sensual comforting scenes. It works all the time. Just watch his two previous remorseless films in Amores Perros and Babel which uses the same formula to thrive on successfulness.

45. Closer (2004)

Closer is this decade’s definitive love story for grown-ups, where the prettiest people happen to do the ugliest things to one another. There hasn’t been one this hot, sexy or provocative than Mike Nichols’ film that attempts to claw its way through the gorgeous personas of his cast to reveal a soul full of emptiness. Yea, Nichols was the one who had Mrs. Robinson seduce the innocent Benjamin Braddock. In Closer none of our characters are innocent; instead each one possesses a heart of black and moral decay. Four strangers meet in the most unusual ways; Julia Roberts (a photographer), Jude Law (an author), Clive Owen (a dermatologist) and the electrifying Natalie Portman (just travels the world) are all led by the lust they have for one another. Each one insists intimacy from one another. Nichols shows Hollywood how to craft a perfect time lapsing drama that’s accompanied by dialogue that sizzles, pops and doesn’t sugarcoat anything. As all four appear to be sexual animals they still have that one human instinct and that is to demand the truth and we know that the truth hurts. Every scene, one after another, is hypnotic in its own way and the punctuated song by Damien Rice will shred whatever emotions you have left.

44. Minority Report (2002)

Steven Spielberg orchestrates another sci-fi film that can almost stand its own ground against his recent sci-fi movies such as E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Artificial Intelligence. A computer generated by three innocent unwanted human beings (labeled as “precogs”) is used to see into the future, by a couple of seconds, to predict the next murderer in the Washington D.C. area. The year is 2054 and Spielberg creates a futuristic world full of hope. A rarity in sci-fi movies is where the future isn’t a degrading and corrupted place to call home. These “precogs” claim to have a perfect record in insinuating the murder victim. When they label Tom Cruise, the well-known cop and head of the preCrime division, as a murder suspect he has to race against time to find out why. Spielberg uses a Phillip K. Dick short novel just to scratch the surface and in turn he gives new birth to it as he creates an enormity of the film based on his own thoughts.

43. Old Boy (2003)

For the decade’s best understanding of someone wreaking havoc on a person/group of people has to go to Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi), a man who was unknowingly imprisoned in a bedroom  for 15 years. He learned to adapt to his surroundings and learned martial-arts and the art of vengeance. Once he gets out he seeks out the individual (a man who wants to seek the same vengeance) who secluded him from life and his loved ones. The result is a film that possesses a rational explanation for Dae-su Oh’s extreme violence. Unabashedly the film is gruesome and bloody, it needs to be because what this man has lost in the process of his being imprisoned could never again be made-up in any way. Old Boy is a revelatory film that assumes its audience has seen multiple revenge films. That is a good thing. The substance found here is fresh, bold and uncharacteristically brutal.

42. Crash (2004)

Here’s a movie that has so many mixed emotions. I love that. At one point you feel humble and then the next scene you feel severe hatred and full of uncontrollable rage. When a movie can tug and pull your emotions like this one, without being too melodramatic, it’s usually going to be special. Set in Los Angeles it tells us the stories of how an array of different people’s lives and problems are all connected in some way or another. Some might come to believe that doing this kind of storytelling has no chance of really happening in real life but Haggis makes it all believable. Haggis doesn’t sugar coat anything either, he tells us the way it’s going to be and goes about how he wants to end it. We live in a world full of racisms and different kinds of hatred; it’s only suitable that we watch what our own society has become.

41. Passion of the Christ (2004)

I don’t care if this caused one of the biggest uproars in cinema history, nor do I care if it’s “anti-Semitic” or if it gives Christians a bad name. I know a great movie when I see one and this is a great movie. What I look for first while viewing movies is the level of emotion it beholds. I’m here to say, Catholic or not, that Mel Gibson’s epic masterpiece Passion of the Christ is the most emotionally charged film ever captured on celluloid. This comes mostly due to the passion that Gibson possesses- doesn’t pick any sides but just goes after what he feels needs to be told and not to mention he spent $30 million out of his own pocket. Never once does Gibson present Jesus using any of his miracles, but instead portrays him as a common man. That formula provides for scenes that leave you for a loss of words. Going from the most bloodiest to the most delicate is beyond my imagination. The delicate flashbacks are of Jesus as a child tripping before his mother and washing his hands prior to dinner with his mother. The world that Gibson creates is an encapsulating, blood-drenched environment as he- and an uncommon looking Satan- follow Jesus Christ throughout his last twelve hours in order to give us all everlasting life. Too bloody you say? Gibson says the beatings depicted here don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what really happened. James Caviezel turns in a performance, that for some unknown reason went unnoticed, that displays the toughest circumstances that any actor would have to go through; speak a dead language (Aramaic and Latin) and display himself, believably, as a human punching bag. All the naysayers who bashed the film upon release can now realize that The Passion of the Christ is among the top 15 grossing films of all-time. Never will another movie be made with such ambition, emotion and one’s uncontrollable beliefs. 
Stay tuned this week for the rest of the list!

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