Here are my pics for the best films of the last decade, #1-15 (one film per director, documentaries excluded):
15. No Country For Old Men
A splendidly faithful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel, seamlessly grafted onto a merciless thriller that reworks the Coen's own Blood Simple into something more purely Hitchcockian, yet retaining that Coen magic. Josh Brolin delivers another pitch perfect performance of extreme bad assery. Enjoy Diane Lane...you've earned it pal.
14. Battle Royale
I'm ecstatic when even one kid is murdered in a film; here is an entire movie dedicated to this premise. There is also a lot of strategy involved, so you can sort of play along, thinking how you would kill your classmates when thrust into a similar situation (assuming you haven't already done so for real). Also, Beat Takeshi provides another stellar comedic turn as a teacher that acts like a ruthless, yet no less comedic, gangster (like the kind you might find in a Takeshi Kitano film).
13. Ghost World
Someone once handed me a demo for their alien themed metal band while I was working at a record store, thinking a lowly clerk somehow had connections within the music biz. I saw Ghost World not too long after, and there's a scene where some dude hands Thora and Scarlett (when she was hot) a flyer for his band "Alien Autopsy". In other words, the film was a perfect representation of an entire generation, based purely on empirical evidence.
A sentimental setup (a hardened gangster forced to go on a road trip with a frumpy, sad child, resulting in a less hard former, and the latter toning down his sad bastard act) is rendered with humanity by Kitano the director, and with hilarity by Beat Takeshi the comedian. I hope they continue to work together.
11. Lilja 4-ever
Lukas "out-Lars Van Trier's" L.V.T. himself in this pure representation of an exterior life steeped in horror (a girl forced into the sex trade) contrasted with a beautifully human inner life; two separate truths contrasted in rapturous disharmony. Think Bresson's Mouchette reworked by Lars Von Trier in a modern day setting (where sex is big business), assuming Lars is actually some other dude.
A thriller constructed from static points of view, sometimes human, sometimes not, played out in real time, where all is revealed yet the truth remains hidden. A bourgeois man seals himself off in his own point of view, maintaining his own "truths", while the consequences of his actions remain hidden in plain sight. If that doesn't tickle your intellectual fancy, there's an awesome scene where some dude slits his own throat...oops, I gave it away. Just ignore that last part.
9. La Commune (Paris 1871)
Watkins' six-hours-or-so opus captures a nineteenth century French revolution through the eyes of twenty first century mass media, the resulting mockumentary contrasting reality with the modern representation of reality. History is rewritten on the fly, and this constantly updated framing consistently affects the living reality that is supposed to have been presented objectively the entire time. I hope Hollywood doesn't remake this one; it'll star Angelina Jolie as a hot French chick overcoming systemic oppression in order to nail some hot French dude.
8. Black Book
Carice Van Houten gives perhaps the greatest performance of the decade, using her feminine wiles to infiltrate the gestapo as part of the resistance, but never shedding her humanity amidst a shifting identity. Verhoeven kinda combines his earlier films Soldier of Orange and Katie Tippel, commenting on a male dominated society while constructing a superb thriller. Easily Verhoeven's greatest post-Showgirls achievement.
(dir-Gus Van Zant)
One of the great recent suspense thrillers; after all, suspense is about the when, not the if, and the various real time tracking shots set up the physical space of the school, as well as the setting up of different points in time right before tragedy strikes. Every corner and doorway becomes a potential source of danger. All of this while showcasing a diseased social dynamic; showing, not telling, and therefore never resorting to reductionism. Normally I enjoy watching kids get shot, but these students are more of the young adult variety and, therefore, retain an element of sympathy.
While a man tries to wrap his mind around multiple visions of loveliness, a man in the future tries to comprehend visions of some robo-chicks. Flesh or machine, they both end up as images searing the mind of a hopeless romantic. At least that's what I took from it. By the way, this film just narrowly edged out In the Mood For Love, solely for featuring a cybernetic Faye Wong.
5. Freddy Got Fingered
The greatest American comedy of the decade, courtesy of Canada's proudest son. Tom takes a genuine clothesline concerning a young artist stifled by society and father (admittedly the former is a distant second, but then again, it's hard to compete with Rip Torn) while airing the dirty laundry of his creative subconscious. The latter consists of a rapid series of absurdist gags unparalleled in their power to get one slapping one's knee. Also, chicks in wheelchairs are pretty hot. Not because they can't run away though...that's not where I'm coming from. Honestly.
4. Before Sunset
My most eagerly awaited film of the decade, I initially felt gypped upon walking out of the theater, as it seemed like the film was missing a reel or two. Looking at my watch, I realized I had just fell victim to a rare, non-UFO (not the band, although they rock) missing time experience while revisiting these characters. Now I have to wait another whole decade for the next installment? I CURSE YOU MR. LINKLATER!!!
3. The New World
Malick deconstructs a familiar tale, de-emphasizing the honkey point of view, instead choosing to elevate the objective point of view of the very land itself, wild and untamed as it is (this was before all those shopping malls were built). For the less philosophical amongst us, just look at it as a non-shitty Avatar. Also, Q'orianka Kilcher is pretty hot, which helps a little bit.
2. Femme Fatale
You'd think a movie that begins with a spectacular "diamond-bra lesbian" heist at the Cannes film festival would have a hard time recovering. Not so, as resident genius Brian DePalma keeps things humming along until the end, creating the purest expression yet of his "Godard meets Hitchcock" aesthetic. I guess any hot model lesbian that wears a diamond-bra in public is just begging for an "adventurous" night out. I don't mean that it's okay to rape her...that's not where I'm coming from. Really.
1. Millenium Mambo
This titular mambo entails both the electronic interconnectedness of a new generation, and the alienation inherent in a society separated by electronic media. This ephemeral portrait of our current media-verse is contrasted with the story of a young woman enslaved in a relationship of her own accord, relayed in truths played out in real time. Also...Shu Qi is super hot. That certainly helps.