The 2000s in Review: Film31 Dec, 2009 By: John Latchem
As the aughts come to a close and the calendar rolls into 2010, reflections on the past 10 years are running rampant.
The first decade of the 21st century (though it doesn’t really end until next year since 2000 was the last year of the 20th century) was the first decade of the DVD era, as home entertainment entered a bold new digital age. New films and classics alike were readily available to the masses at affordable prices, loaded with enough extra content to keep a fan entertained for hours on end. Some discs were so extensive they were practically a film school in a box.
The vogue trend in reflecting on the decade has been an endless supply of best-of lists, be it movies, TV shows or books, each one seemingly more pretentious than the last.
Tossing the merits of objectivity aside, I’m simply going to provide a list of my favorites over the past 10 years. The quality may vary, but they all have a place on my shelf.
For each year, I’ve picked three movies that appealed to me as representative of the year in film, regardless of general critical acclaim. Clearly, some years were better than others. From Academy Award winners to crowd pleasing spectacles, be sure to check them out on DVD, or better yet, Blu-ray Disc. (Update: I made some late additions, pushing the total in some categories to more than three.)
Up in the Air (Paramount) — A fantastic character study, morality play, romance … whatever it is, it is great, and when you re-watch it you never get the same movie twice.
The Hangover (Warner) — An inspired comedy, filmed with funny characters and memorable dialogue, that remains fresh long after all the secrets are revealed.
Inglourious Basterds (Universal) — Quentin Tarantino proves his flair for dialogue is not limited to just one language with this tongue-in-cheek send-up of World War II.
Up (Disney) — Pixar’s latest triumph recalls the spirit of adventure that seems so fleeting as we grow older.
The Dark Knight (Warner) — A stunning achievement in an overlooked genre, Christopher Nolan’s second Batman epic is easily not just the greatest superhero film ever made, but one of the top films of recent times, period.
Iron Man (Paramount) — In a busy year for comic book movies, Robert Downey Jr. is pitch perfect as the titlular hero in this techno-comedic romp.
Wall-E (Disney) — Pixar’s take on science-fiction and cute robots warms the heart while dazzling the eyes.
Juno (Fox) — Smart and quirky story of a pregnant teen reveals the divide between childhood and adulthood isn’t as wide as it seems.
No Country for Old Men (Miramax) — The Coen Brothers close the book on the old West in this dark tale of a man on the run from the ultimate badass.
Transformers (Paramount) — Michael Bay turns toy robots into a fun ride, absurd to the end but never lacking an infectious energy, and filled with outstanding visual effects.
Borat (Fox) — One of the funniest movies of the decade turns pop culture on its ear and leaves no victim unscathed.
The Departed (Warner) — The film that finally delivered Martin Scorsese’s long-overdue Oscar thrusts audiences into a gripping story of duty and honor among gangsters and cops in Boston.
Casino Royale (Sony Pictures) — James Bond returns in a fresh take on the legendary spy, reconstructing the formula while rebooting the franchise for a new age of action epics.
Capote (Sony Pictures) — A cruel tale of vanity driven by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar-winning performance as author Truman Capote.
Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith (Fox) — George Lucas’ prequels are easy fodder for ridicule, but the final installment offers more good than bad to satisfy audiences with epic sci-fi action.
Munich (Universal) — Steven Spielberg uses the Israeli response to the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre as a springboard for a tale of revenge escalating beyond reason.
Sideways (Fox) — Funny and depressing at the same time, Alexander Payne’s character study gives us a newfound excuse to examine our potential … and drink lots of wine while doing so.
Miracle (Disney) — The feel-good story of the 1980 gold medal-winning U.S. hockey team perfectly captures the Olympic spirit thanks to a spot-on performance by Kurt Russell as the late coach Herb Brooks.
National Treasure (Disney) — A fun adventure story about the roots of American iconography that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Master and Commander (Fox) — A rousing sea-faring adventure reminiscent of the yarns of old, filled with wonderful performances and authenticity.
Finding Nemo (Disney) — Colorful escapade of a father looking for his son, and Pixar’s most endearing film to date.
X2 (Fox) — Bryan Singer ups the ante of the superhero genre by combining allegory and action with smart characters and a good story.
The Rookie (Disney) — Inspirational story of Jim Morris, a Texas high-school baseball coach who made it to Major League Baseball at the age of 35.
The Bourne Identity (Universal) — The first of a trilogy of spy-thrillers that re-defined the action genre enough to give James Bond a run for his money.
We Were Soldiers (Paramount) — Gut-wrenching depiction of the first battle of the Vietnam War provides a solemn reminder of the sacrifices of American heroes.
Memento (Sony Pictures) — Christopher Nolan breaks through to the mainstream with a mind-bending story of identity and self-purpose … told in reverse.
Shrek (DreamWorks) — One of the funniest animated films ever made maintains its wit and charm despite the shtick wearing thin after multiple sequels.
The Lord of the Rings (Warner) — So, I’m listing this in 2001 since that’s when the trilogy began, but it’s basically a 10-hour fantasy epic (13 hours if you watch the extended versions). I also think it’s a tad overrated. However, the filmmaking achievement cannot be denied, even if Peter Jackson has trouble avoiding his penchant for self-indulgence.
Traffic (Universal) — Steven Soderbergh dissects the war on drugs in a gritty anthology of dangerous circumstances. The film was robbed of the best-picture Oscar by Gladiator.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony Pictures) — Ang Lee’s martial arts masterpiece plays like a whimsical fairy tale filled with action and suspense as it pays homage to Asian cinema.
American Psycho (Lionsgate) — A chilling tale of conformity and identity in a corporate world.
The Patriot (Sony Pictures) — This retelling of the Swamp Fox folk tale is pretty much a standard action-revenge story set during the American Revolution, but Mel Gibson is at the top of his game, the set-pieces are well done, and John Williams provides a rousing musical score worthy of the title.