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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Best Films of the Filmspotting Era

I recently caught up with podcast Filmspotting (from Chicago Public Radio) and their 500th anniversary show.  I've been listening to Adam and Josh for a couple years now, and can't get enough of their thoughtful, funny, spirited, and original discussions. Check them out if you haven't!

For their 500th episode, they picked their 5 favorite films of the Filmspotting era (2005-present).  Being a list-maker myself, I had to find my own.  This proved a very tough task, but I finally whittled it down.
I notice that for every film in my top 5, there was at least one other film by the same director that was among my favorites of the decade.  We have some great directors working right now.  It's always tough to commit as movies grow and change as we age.  If you asked me this list in a year, I'm sure I would move around some things.  So as of now, here are my top 5 films of the past 9 years.


Junebug: A modest family drama that is just perfectly done.  It has a particularly wonderful breakout role for Amy Adams.

The New World: I almost put this Terrence Malick movie on rather than The Tree of Life.  This story of John Smith and Pocahontas is gorgeous, powerful, and haunting.

No Country for Old Men: The Coen Brothers' revisionist western is just about a perfect movie with a dark view of humanity.

There Will Be Blood: An imperfect movie with a messy ending, but so strange and disturbing and transfixing I couldn't leave it off.  Daniel Day Lewis gives the best performance of the decade.

WALL-E: Pixar had an phenomenal run for several years (I also particularly loved Ratatouille and Toy Story 3), but I think was their most visionary film.

My top 5....

5. Amour (2012)
Director Michael Haneke's story of love colliding with aging is one of the most wrenching portraits of life I've ever seen.  Haneke is known for being a very clinical director, but here a strong sense of warmth comes through in the midst of all the pain.
(Bonus Haneke points for Cache and The White Ribbon)

4. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Almost a year later, I continue to be in awe that British director Steve McQueen was able to make a movie about slavery with no concessions to his stunning artistic vision. The movie is profoundly artistic, harrowing, amazingly acted and unforgettable.  It's sure to endure and move future generations.
(Bonus McQueen points for Shame)

3. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
I LOVE the Coen Brothers, and after seeing Llewyn Davis twice, I think I can safely call it my favorite of their movies. It's the perfect mix of cynicism and sentiment, humor and heartbreak. It has so much to say about the life of an artist and what it takes to follow your vision.
(Bonus Coen Brothers points for No Country for Old Men and A Serious Man)

2. The Tree of Life (2011)
Terrence Malick's epic story of a family in Texas in the 1950s is a beautiful interpretation of childhood's joys and (especially) painted as painted in moments in time.  Yes, it also covers the creation of the universe, dinosaurs, and the afterlife!  It all worked magically for me.  Monumental.
(Bonus Malick points for The New World)

1. Children of Men (2006)
Some movies you immediately love, while others sneak up on you.  When I first saw Children of Men, I liked it and admired its artistry and its message. When I saw it a second time a few years later, it simply blew me away. Director Alfonso Cuaron's dystopian movie about a world without children is thrilling, heart-wrenching, and technically astonishing.  Simply perfect.

And here were the picks from Filmspotting and their guests.  Lots of love for The Tree of Life and There Will Be Blood.

Adam Kempenaar (Filmspotting)
1. The Master
2. The Tree of Life
3. No Country for Old Men
4. There Will Be Blood
5. Inglorious Basterds

Josh Larsen (Filmpsotting)
1. The Tree of Life
2. No Country for Old Men
3. Where the Wild Things Are
4. Volver
5. Meek's Cutoff

Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune)
1. There Will be Blood
2. Climates
3. Her
4. Last Train Home
5. Ratatouille

Dana Stevens (Slate)
1. There Will Be Blood
2. Grizzly Man
3. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
4. Children of Men
5. The Tree of Life

Rian Johnson (Director)
1. There Will Be Blood
2. The Master
3. No Country for Old Men
4. A Serious Man
5. Inglorious Bastards