Best of the Decade: Film (Take 4)



We continue our five-part series of posts on the decade in movies (Take 1 here, Take 2 here, Take 3 here) with another 20 or so of our favorite scenes and moments. Plus, Addison Engelking reveals his alternative list of 25 favorite films of the decade.


“Knights of Columbus!” “Great Odin’s raven!” “By the beard of Zeus!” — stentorian non-sequiturs in ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY. (CH)

William Wilberforce ponders a spider web, AMAZING GRACE. (AE)

A comic-book action scene goes Sam Raimi with a series of double-second vignettes of horror as Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) attacks a surgery room, and a surgeon fights back with a chainsaw, in SPIDER-MAN 2. (GA)

“I’m the Invincible Sword Goddess,” young fighter Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi) says, mocking pretentious martial arts monikers as she mows through a patriarchal maze of slovenly, self-important male opponents in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. (CH)

Teen warrior, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon:

Jimmy (Eminem) wrestles with composing a song while riding the bus, snatches of instrumental sections playing in his head, trying to be formed into the completed song "Lose Yourself,” in 8 MILE. (GA)

Bill Murray croons Roxy Music's "More Than This" at a late-night Tokyo karaoke bar in LOST IN TRANSLATION. (CH)

Wendy says goodbye to Lucy, WENDY & LUCY. (AE)

Samara climbs out of the well, and out of the TV, and into the real world, in THE RING. (GA)

A dramatic entrance from The Ring:

Julia Roberts makes a little speech, and offers opposing counsel a glass of water: ERIN BROCKOVICH. (CH)

Bruno fellates the ghost of Rob Pilatus in BRUNO — a hilariously dedicated scene in an otherwise unfunny film. (GA)

Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn, walking nine holes, devouring scenery all the way, in THE AVIATOR. (CH)

Blanchett does Hepburn, The Aviator:

Parker Posey’s acidic “That’s a bear in a bee costume,” BEST IN SHOW. (GA)

After his power-station accident, whenever Jack Black gets too close to the camera in BE KIND REWIND, the image vibrates like it's a VHS tape that's too close to an electromagnet. (AE)

An animated sequence illustrates the genesis of love in HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH. (GA)

Going glam in Hedwig & the Angry Inch:

Cathy (Julianne Moore) makes a clandestine appearance at the train station to say goodbye to the one person in the world she feels truly alive around, one red-gloved hand waving impotently, FAR FROM HEAVEN. (CH)

The river monster vomits up the bones of its recent victims while a frightened girl looks on, THE HOST. (AE)

Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) thinks he may have unwittingly stumbled onto the identity of his killer he has obsessed about for years, in the man’s basement, in the terrifying ZODIAC. (GA)

The attacking pitbull skipping across the creek and leaping at Josh Brolin in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. (CH)

A different kid of chase scene, No Country for Old Men:

The long opening montage in ALI, keyed to a Sam Cooke performance — a young Cassius Clay (Will Smith) comes of age a thoughtful, contemplative man, finally opening his famous mouth at a raucous pre-fight weigh-in as the music fades. (GA)

Steve Coogan explodes — a howlingly abrupt and thorough mockery of directorial hubris in TROPIC THUNDER. (CH)

Wall-E dances with Eve in WALL-E. (AE)

Pas de deux, WALL-E:

Intertwined sex scenes — one "real," one rehearsed, both fraught with emotional meaning: So-called mumblecore grows up in Joe Swanberg's ALEXANDER THE LAST. (CH)

Hard-boiled noir set in a modern high school transforms the opium-den trope into stoners hanging out behind a gas station in BRICK. (GA)

The brief shot of a gun slipped in a guitar case during the opening montage of CADILLAC RECORDS. (AE)


As part of his angry 1998 response/rejoinder to the American Film Institute’s “100 Years—100 Movies” list, film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum put together a list of his 100 “alternative” favorites from the American cinema. Before I saw his list, I thought I knew a few things about movies; for years I’d been toting around a battered copy of Entertainment Weekly’s August 1990 issue that proclaimed “The Top 100 Films on Video,” and I’d been neatly checking off each movie like an item on a shopping list. (I never did get around to Yankee Doodle Dandy, though.) Rosenbaum’s list stunned, frustrated, challenged, and ultimately delighted me. His choices opened up new corners of the film world that I didn’t know about, and his favorites reflected several different ways of thinking about movies — as product, as entertainment, as historical record, as argument, as sensory experience, as (gulp) art — that I try to keep in mind whenever I see something.

Thankfully, my list of “alternatives” to the decade’s best doesn’t come from any anger at my colleagues. In fact, aside from The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, everything on Greg and Chris’ lists is good-to-great. But instead of agreeing with their choices, I wanted to point out that there’s an awful lot of good-to-great other stuff there that, through distribution problems or bad press or some misguided notion about what an audience in this market “wants”, slipped through the cracks. And perhaps the greatest development in global cinema over the past decade is that, thanks to Netflix and Hulu and The Auteurs and torrent files from around the world, our sense of what films can be is greater than ever. These 25 films are all available in some way, shape or form. Happy hunting!

1. Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Anderson, 2005)
2. Moolade (Ousmane Sembene, 2004)
3. The Corporation (Mark Achbar/Jennifer Abbott, 2003)
4. Taboo (Nagisa Oshima, 2000 U.S. release)
5. The Gleaners and I (Agnes Varda, 2000)
6. Shotgun Stories (Jeff Nichols, 2007)
7. Game 6 (Michael Hoffman, 2005)
8. Diggers (Katherine Dieckmann, 2006)
9. Edmond (Stuart Gordon, 2005)
10. Battle For Haditha (Nick Broomfield, 2007)
11. Nine Queens/The Aura (Fabien Bielinsky, 2000/2005)
12. Bus 174 (Jose Padilha, 2002)
13. Everlasting Moments (Jan Troell, 2008)
14. Pulse (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001)
15. Infernal Affairs (Lau Wai-Keung and Alan Mak, 2002)
16. What Time is It There? (Tsai Ming-Liang, 2001)
17. Exiled (Johnnie To, 2006)
18. Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000)
19. Alexander: The Final Cut (Oliver Stone, 2004)
20. The Heart of the World (Guy Maddin, 2000)
21. Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009)
22. La Commune [Paris 1871] (Peter Watkins, 2000)
23. The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (Sam Fuller, 1980/2004)
24. The World (Jia Zhang-ke, 2005)
25. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2005)


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