Film, like all other forms of story telling, can either be a work of art or the equivalent of a train wreck colliding with a multiple car pileup. And, yes, it can get that bad. Case in point: Twilight. But let me not get ahead of myself. Starting off this list, as I believe is proper, will be the movies that I considered to be the best of the past decade.
#10 - The Beat That My Heart Skipped
A french film by director Jacques Audiard starring the immensely talented Roman Duris, The Beat That My Heart Skipped is one part crime flick and one part family/romantic dysfunction. My description doesn't do the film much justice, but Audiard has developed such a film that it is somewhat difficult to put it into one genre, or even competently describe it. In either case, however, the film is both dark and grim, while simultaneously being a film on the power of art, passion, and memories to draw us back from the brink of self destruction and emotional ruin.
#9 - 28 Days Later
One of the better "End of the World!/It's the Apocalypse!" movies I've seen. While definitely lacking as it concerns special effects, I'm of the opinion that the film didn't need them. The story isn't so much focused on violence and gore as it is focused on the relationship developed by people when violence, gore, and fear start to gnaw away at our sense of security and humanity. Conveying both sides, the need to connect with someone and the disconnect between people when survival and personal contentment are paramount, 28 Days Later, in my opinion, uses horror to draw you into a film which is hoping to convey much more.
#8 - Princess Mononoke
Created and directed by the Lord of Animation both in the East and the West (Eat your heart out Disney), Hayao Mizaki of Spirited Away fame, Princess Mononoke is a dark and lovely fairy tale focusing on the battle between man and nature, and why such a conflict exists. It is also focuses on the ability of a single man or woman to make a difference in the world, and to change things for the better through indomitable will and the ability to reason and care for other living beings outside of themselves. While the animation alone makes this film worth watching, the story is also incredibly dynamic and full of three dimensional character portrayals. As in reality, both humanity and nature are flawed in such a way that to say that any character, or characters for that matter, are evil would be to misunderstand an essential element of the story.
#7 - Donnie Darko
Attempting to describe Donnie Darko in anyway that might possibly be considered eloquent and concise would be akin to attempting to drive a car with your mouth while flossing your teeth, tying your shoe laces with one hand while attempting to sculpt Auguste Rodin's The Thinker in Silly Puddy with the other. Okay, okay, so maybe it's not quite that impossible to describe it, but with a plot as off the wall and full of holes, and yes, holes in the plot are actually a good thing as far as this movie is concerned, as this one, my thoughts on the film itself and the ending are still forming even a year after seeing the movie. Needless to say, I think just about everyone who was ever an slightly out-of-place teenage boy can relate to the protagonist, played by a young Jake Gyllenhaal. Well...almost, sometimes I felt that Donnie might have been suffering from some form of autism, but that's neither here nor there ultimately.
By the way, stay far, far, far away from the sequel S. Darko.
#6 - Bronson
Because absurd violence and gratuitous fighting are awesome.
P.S. - The story (a semi-biographic), acting and directing aren't bad either. Synopsis linked here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronson_%28film%29
#5 - 2046
Describing 2046 as a story of discovering what it means to love would not do the plot justice. 2046 is a tale of romance, both actualized and unrequited, that, while bordering, at times, on the level of softcore porn, still remains a work of art. From the costumes to the directing to acting, 2046 did away with many of the puerile portrayals of relationships in American romance films, and delivered something a little more substantial.
Directed by Guy Richie, I wouldn't actually recommend Revolver to anyone as I feel that, with the plot, the writing could have been better. However, if for no other reason than the fact that Andre 3000 and Jason Fucking Statham, who gives one of his best performances to date, are in this movie, I personally enjoyed this film. The overall concepts of selfishness, ego, and attempting to discover a way out of the "Game" which we play with others and oursevles was intriguing, but the execution, though definitely stylized excellently, could have been better. Regardless, I still really enjoyed this movie, even if some of the technical aspects weren't all that great.
#3 - Persepolis
While definitely not on the same level as Princess Mononoke as it concerns the quality of the animation, Persepolis is without a doubt one of the few movies, animated or otherwise, that I actually felt deserved an Oscar nomination over the past few years. A story of growing up under difficult and trying circumstances, attempting to fit in, coming into one's own, and falling in and out of love for the reasons that people do, Persepolis was, I felt, a poignant autobiography. Full of humor and tragedy seemingly symbiotic in balance, it was one of the few films which I actually became invested in emotionally, which is indeed a rare occurrence.
#2 - Inglorious Basterds
Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds really makes one think beyond how one normally does as it concerns those we consider historical villains and heroes. In Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino makes it a point to show the human side of the most famous war ever fought. The film portrays, albeit at times rather comically, how in war there are no winners, there are no "good guys" in most circumstances, but rather people who hold on to certain convictions that may be right or wrong. However, those people are still people in the end, and when root for their deaths are we not transformed into the same monster that we were so convinced they were? Of course this is only one part of the film's message. Needless to say, the acting is, mostly, top-notch, the directing and editing excellent, and the characters perfect shades of gray, with the exception of Colonel Hans who is, without a doubt, the most Magnificent Bastard to have ever appeared on a cinema screen.
#1 - Amelie
Quirky, witty, and charming, Amelie is a film that calls out to all of us who live in our own little worlds and enjoy having our own little quirks. However, the films message, of perhaps sharing our microcosm with the macrocosm, is also remarkably effective as the character of Amelie, portrayed by Audrey Tautou, never discards her idiosyncratic ways but rather embraces them and engages the world on her own terms. Having been a quirky child with bizarre parents, I could definitely relate to this film's protagonist. Oh yeah, and the directing and style weren't bad either.
The Top Ten Worst Films of the Decade will be featured in my next post.