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Friday, May 14, 2010

Favorites of the "00s": 21-30

Counting down further (here's 41-50 and 31-50) through my top picks for the past decade.

30. Atonement (2007): Can a movie be nominated for Best Picture, do good business, and yet still be somewhat overlooked? I feel somehow like this movie was passed over as a stereotypical stuffy British war drama, when it is anything but. The adaptation of IanMcEwan's meta-novel is shot with great beauty and style, of course, but every element of the film draws you toward its compelling themes.

29. City of God (2003): Director Fernando Meirelles (who's The Constant Gardener also made my list) helmed this exhilarating, heartbreaking, and completely alive film about gangs in the slums of Rio de Janerio.

28. Ghost World (2001): A movie about sarcastic misfits, and whether there is a place for them in modern American life. This movie is hilarious, quotable, and highly rewatchable. It also contains Steve Buscemi's best performance, as an anti-social record collector who befriends two recent high school grads.

27. Cache (2005): Austrian director Michael Haneke helmed this (possibly?) unsolvable mystery about a French bourgeois couple and a stalker who is trying to send them a message. Deeply unsettling and very profound on the nature of guilt and culpability.

26. The Class (2008): Adapted from a memoir by Francois Begaudeu (who basically plays himself in the movie), this movie simply and realistically portrays the life of a teacher in an urban Parisian school. As a teacher, I've never seen the joys and trials of ther profession portrayed so realistically.

25. The Lives of Others (2006): A simple, well-told, profound story of life in East Germany. As the lives of an East German policeman and a playwright become intertwined, the movie makes its points about artistic freedom, personal freedom, and human connections beautifully.

24. About Schmidt (2002): I love director Alexander Payne's depiction of flawed everyday Americans (especially this and Election), and this comedy-drama is structured simply and beautifully. Jack Nicholson, who overplays roles more often than not in his old age, dials back his performance and gives us a fully lived in portrait of a widower reflecting on the essential emptiness of his life.

23. Traffic (2000): One of the first of the modern intersecting stories movies (see: Crash, Babel). Traffic tells its story of the drug war with great storytelling skill and performances. My favorites in the excellent cast are Benicio del Toro and Don Cheadle.

22. Requiem for a Dream (2000): Another great drug movie from 2000. What's the difference between a good depressing movie and a great one? The urge to watch it again. As bad as Requiem makes me feel, the skill of its moviemaking and its performances have caused me to return to it several times. Ellen Burstyn gives one of the best performances of the decade as one of a quartet of characters destroyed by drugs.

21. Capote (2005): A biopic done right. No unncessarry backstory or childhood scenes. Just a tense and fascinating account of how a bizarre man made his way into a small Kansas town, befriended brutal killers, wrote a great book, and (arguably) lost his soul. Of course Philip Seymour Hoffman is great, and Catherine Keener provides excellent support as his friend and moral conscience author Harper Lee.

This 10 seems heavy on the great foreign films, portraits of American misfits of one sort of another (About Schmidt and Ghost World, Capote), and drug movies from 2000.