Even more favorite flicks…
30) Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes) (2008, dir. Nacho Vigalondo)
I am a sucker for a good time travel flick. When I stumbled across the trailer of Timecrimes I was intrigued with its concept but had no idea how much fun I would have watching it. The film is one larger puzzle in which one section of time is played through three separate times by the protagonist, Hector. Settling into his new home with his wife, Hector takes a break in the backyard, birdwatching with a pair of binoculars, and spies a woman undressing. He then notices a man in a trenchcoat, with a face wrapped in pink bandages with this woman. Against better judgment, Hector travels into the forest, setting into place a series of events that will send him looping through time. With each iteration, we are able to see the larger picture of events occurring, until the final run-through which ends in tragedy. Nacho Vigalondo is another entry in Spanish filmmakers that impressed me incredibly in the 2000s and one I will watch eagerly for his work in the future.
29) Unbreakable (2000, dir. M. Night Shyamalan)
Starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn
I was extremely impressed by Shyamalan’s debut, The Sixth Sense but missed this film at first. About three weeks after being released in theaters, a friend convinced me to go see it and I never regretted the decision. I had no idea that this was a pared down superhero origin story. The film is told beautifully and in a way that made me literally weep the first time I saw it. Bruce Willis delivers a wonderfully understated performance and his scenes of discovering his abilities alongside his son are so poignant. In particular, a scene in the ending where his son has a realization about what his father truly is and the two share a glance across the breakfast table is a beautiful moment of a son’s love of his father. While Watchmen is a cynical, critical look at the superhero genre, Unbreakable is a love story of the classic comic book tale and told in such a loving way it can’t help but pull the viewer in. Sadly, Shyamalan seems to have depleted his stock with each subsequent film. Here’s hoping he regains his title as a true auteur in the coming decade.
28) The Prestige (2006, dir. Christopher Nolan)
Starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, David Bowie
This will be the first of three appearance by director Christopher Nolan on my list. Upon looking at the decade as a whole it became apparent to me that my Director of the Decade would be Nolan. The man has not yet released a film I would consider bad at all. There are films of his I prefer over his other work but none of them can be considered a failure. His aesthetic style is not necessarily blatant in the way a PT Anderson or Alejandro Innaritu might be but there are common elements in his films. In The Prestige he presents a massive puzzle and chronicles the rivalry between 19th century magicians Robert (Jackman) and Alfred (Bale). Robert is obsessed with out-doing Alfred and is baffled when Alfred performs “The Transported Man”, a trick so amazing Alfred’s scientific mind cannot figure out how it is done. His obsession destroys his personal life and leads him on an odyssey that ends in Colorado at the home of inventor Nikolai Tesla (Bowie). The non-linear nature of the film teases the viewer and allows him to generate educated guesses that only contain partial truths and with each twist the guess is augmented until the final horror of the truth behind the trick is revealed. A brilliant piece of fantastic cinema.
27) 28 Days Later (2002, dir. Danny Boyle)
Starring Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Christopher Eccleston
I am not a Danny Boyle fan. I don’t care for Trainspotting, Millions, Sunshine, or Slumdog Millionaire. However, this 2002 flick hit right in my wheelhouse and remains one of my favorite horror films of the 2000s. The ferocity this film contains is without peer. From the opening sequencing in which disease ravaged chimps savage a group of animal liberators to Jim’s (Murphy) mad dash from the speeding zombies through the streets of London, it is apparent that this is a speed-fueled monster movie. Even with all this brutality, Boyle manages to balance it with tender moments as Jim and company travel across England in the hopes of finding fellow humanity. The Grand Guginol of the finale is a stark work of art, with Jim assuming an inhumanity that far surpasses the zombies plaguing his makeshift family. In the end, Jim reveals the horror man is capable of, regardless of a zombie-making plague.
26) Lost in Translation (2003, dir. Sofia Coppola)
Starring Scarlett Johanssen, Bill Murray, Anna Farris, Giovanni Ribisi
This film came to me at a time where I emotionally needed it, akin to what I think a lot of 1960s youth felt about The Graduate. And thankfully, it wasn’t just a sentimental film but a very well made one. I loved Coppola’s feature debut, The Virgin Suicides, and was excited to see what she did next. Telling a partially autobiographical story, we follow Charlotte (Johanssen), the wife of a jet-setting, hipster photog (read Coppola’s former marriage to Spike Jonze). Charlotte has no identity of her own and simply follows her hubby from place to place. Charlotte befriends aging movie star Bob Harris (Murray), who is in Japan making talk show appearances and shooting an ad for a Japanese whiskey. While there is a bit of flirtation between the two, the relationship doesn’t really fall into the realm of sexuality. Instead, I would call these two characters “soulmates”, they form an incredibly close kinship very quickly. While their arcs don’t bring them to new place, there is still a sense of growth and promise of change that things will better for them somehow. At the end of the day, I identified very closely with Charlotte, a twentysomething adrift and unsure of what they are supposed to do.