Guy’s top 50 of the decade: #31-40

Posted by · 5:00 pm · January 3rd, 2010

Matt Damon in The Bourne UltimatumYesterday, I began my countdown of my 50 favorite — do note that last word, I hesitate to say “best” — films of the 2000s. Today, we creep up another ten rungs on the ladder.

I wrote this in my introduction to the list yesterday, but it bears repeating: don’t read too much into the rankings at this level. I’m not the kind of person who can scientifically determine whether my 37th favorite film of the decade is marginally — but conclusively — superior to my 38th favorite. Just today, I did some mild shuffling with the following titles, only to change my mind a few minutes later.

Bottom line: I think they’re all pretty darn special. The list continues after the cut.

“THE GOOD GIRL” (Miguel Arteta, 2002)
Jennifer Aniston in The Good GirlNot just the bedrock of my undying admiration for Jennifer Aniston (though I’ll squeeze in another whine about her missing Oscar nom), but a wicked little morality tale with more pith and bite than its woozy Indiewood exterior lets on. Bonus points for Zooey Deschanel and “Cirque du Face.”

“INTIMACY” (Patrice Chéreau, 2001)
Mark Rylance and Kerry Fox in IntimacyChéreau’s collaboration with Hanif Kureishi may have taken gold at Berlin, but more critics were interested in fussing over its unsimulated sex scenes than its laudably adult examination of a benefits-only relationship. A shame. Mark Rylance’s performance is one of the decade’s greatest.

“ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW” (Miranda July, 2005)
Me and You and Everyone We KnowArtist, author and filmmaker Miranda July is the kind of spacy, precious talent whom people tend to regard with adoration or immense irritation. Ordinarily, I’d be in the latter camp, but her debut bypasses mere indie quirk for more searching strangeness, and won my heart in the process.

“MOOLAADE” (Ousmane Sembène, 2004)
MoolaadeThe final feature from the late Senegalese master Sembène is a subtle triumph of political filmmaking, bringing his keen novelist’s eye to a stark tale of rebellion against African patriarchy. Awash with color, compassion and more wit than the theme of female circumcision might promise.

“A PROPHET” (Jacques Audiard, 2009)
Niels Arestrup in A ProphetSave it for the next decade’s countdown if you must; I’m not that patient. Audiard went three-for-three in the 2000s, and saved the best for last with this ballsy, blood-stained crime saga, a prison film that matches TV’s “Oz” for sociological detail and complexity. Tahar Rahim, the future is yours.

“THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM” (Paul Greengrass, 2007)
Matt Damon in The Bourne UltimatumNot a beat is missed in Greengrass’s electrifying reinvigoration of the Hollywood chase thriller, a cinematic 100m sprint sustained over feature length. Half of me resists a fourth chapter, for this surely cannot be topped. The other half is itching to know what happens next.

“FISH TANK” (Andrea Arnold, 2009)
Kierston Wareing in Fish TankAgain, American critics must wait another ten years to weigh Andrea Arnold’s furious study of teen ennui against the decade’s achievements, by which time the filmmaker may have reached even greater heights. Luckily for me, I’m not American; for now, this film stacks up very nicely indeed.

“THERE WILL BE BLOOD” (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be BloodAlready granted modern-classic status by the critical masses, Anderson’s messy, abrasive, deliciously insane epic subverted its own Hollywood grandeur with one of the decade’s most unreadable protagonists. I’m not sure every note lands just right, but its colossal nerve sees it through.

“WENDY AND LUCY” (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)
Wendy and LucyFull disclosure: I first saw Reichardt’s wrenching girl-mongrel love story in the weeks after I lost my own long-beloved dog, so it didn’t have to work very hard to reduce me to a teary puddle in the cinema. Repeat viewings, however, reveal deeper layers of humanity here.

“LAST RESORT” (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2000)
Paddy Considine and Dina Korzun in Last ResortStranded at Gatwick Airport with a light suitcase and a sceptical son, a young Russian immigrant is compelled to seek asylum in a hellish seaside resort. This short, taut beauty turns the unimaginable, unshakable; Dina Korzun and Paddy Considine make a heart-crushing pair of lovers.

More tomorrow. If you missed #41-50 yesterday, catch up here. Here’s how the list has taken shape so far:

1-30. TBA
31. “Last Resort”
32. “Wendy and Lucy”
33. “There Will Be Blood”
34. “Fish Tank”
35. “The Bourne Ultimatum”
36. “A Prophet”
37. “Moolaadé”
38. “Me and You and Everyone We Know”
39. “Intimacy”
40. “The Good Girl”
41. “The Hurt Locker”
42. “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”
43. “Lust, Caution”
44. “Iraq in Fragments”
45. “Jesus’ Son”
46. “Japanese Story”
47. “Saraband”
48. “City of God”
49. “Zoolander”
50. “Devdas”

→ 26 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

26 responses so far

  • 1 1-03-2010 at 5:06 pm

    James D. said...

    I never would have pegged you as a There Will Be Blood fan.

    Well, The Good Girl and Intimacy join my queue, joining about 50 films from Chad’s list. Should be interesting enough.

  • 2 1-03-2010 at 5:16 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Well, to be fair, it’s ranked #33 where a lot of people have put in their top ten. I mostly agree that the film has a lot of flaws but is so mesmerizing in its own way that it can’t be seen as anything but special. Plus, Armond White hated it, which boosts its credibility immensely.

    I guess the only eyebrow-raising moments, for me, is the relatively low ranking of City of God (my top ten, easily) and your odd love for the One Trick Pony Queen, Jennifer Aniston.

  • 3 1-03-2010 at 5:28 pm

    Chase K. said...

    “There Will Be Blood” is my personal #1. It’s so primitive and biblical – John Huston meets Stanley Kubrick – and Daniel Plainview is undoubtedly destined to become one of the most iconic American screen characters of all-time.

    As ugly as it is, it’s the perfect summation of the morally bankrupt American theology.

  • 4 1-03-2010 at 5:52 pm

    The InSneider said...

    Good stuff so far, Guy… except for that Bourne pick. Solid action sequences built around an INVISIBLE plot. The Bourne movies have this false air of sophistication around them. Marketed as action for intellectuals or something. Um, this trilogy is drawn out in service of a story that couldn’t be a bigger joke. Matt Damon signs up for a gov’t program and forgets that he did so. Stupid. Tony Gilroy is remarkably overrated as a writer. And if this Greengrass makes it, I assume Bloody Sunday and United 93 must as well, since Bourne 3 surely isn’t his best work as a filmmaker, right?

  • 5 1-03-2010 at 6:09 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Most of Gilroy’s work in those scripts was actually quite compromised.

  • 6 1-03-2010 at 6:23 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    @James D: I’m always fascinated when people say “I never pegged you for” this or that — makes me wonder what I’ve said that created the wrong impression! Anyway, I’m a fan of pretty much anything PTA does — though I admit that “Magnolia” is more my speed.

    @InSneider: I guess I fell for the faux-sophistication, then … maybe I’m an intellectual, after all. As for the question of Greengrass’s best work — we’ll see.

  • 7 1-03-2010 at 8:05 pm

    James D. said...

    It is just that, considering your trend of criticism, I would think the weaknesses of the film would outweigh the strengths for someone like you.

  • 8 1-03-2010 at 8:24 pm

    Billyboy said...

    I would really love to hear some of the flaws in “There Will Be Blood”. Honestly… (Not being facetious)

    I saw the film twice when it opened in theaters and found it to be perfect. Haven’t watched it since then… Maybe I should see it again.

  • 9 1-03-2010 at 8:28 pm

    Danny King said...

    I must admit, I’m not a big fan of “The Good Girl.” I know it’s an adored film by many, but it just didn’t register with me.

    I have a tough time disagreeing with the rest of your entries here, and I cannot wait to see both “A Prophet” and “Fish Tank.” You’re a lucky man being able to see both of them.

  • 10 1-03-2010 at 8:45 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    the only thing i dont like about your lists guy is they ad to my list of to see by so many, ive seen so few of these movies, looking forward to the top 10

  • 11 1-03-2010 at 9:29 pm

    Patryk said...

    Still love the love for “Beat.”

  • 12 1-03-2010 at 10:16 pm

    PJ said...

    “Moolaadé” is a wonderful film. Just a beautiful window into the concept of culture and our notions of it. Glad you liked it so much, Guy.

  • 13 1-03-2010 at 10:23 pm

    Glenn said...

    Loving the inclusion of “Fish Tank”, a movie that has stayed with me stronger than almost any other of the past year. Absolutely brilliant film and Arnold really solidified herself (along with “Red Road” and her Oscar-winning short “Wasp”) as one of THE greatest newcomers this decade.

    I must say, I much MUCH prefer “The Bourne Supremacy”. That one felt more like a single entity whereas “Ultimatum” was very much a trilogy ender. Plus, “Supremacy” has five minutes or so of Franke Potente!

    And I’m in 100% agreement with you re “Me and You and Everyone We Know”. I usually don’t like (or at least am ambivilant towards) those “quirky” “indie” films, but that one was different. It’s darkness wasn’t merely a way to drum easy guffaws (oh look! they’re putting the corpse in the van!!! etc) but used as a way to probe mental and emotional wounds within truly sad, yet optimistic, people. Love that film.

  • 14 1-03-2010 at 11:05 pm

    Nick Davis said...

    My three favorite things about this bracket: the sheer unexpectedness of The Good Girl, which I now want to revisit, because even if I don’t like it better this time, I’ll enjoy looking for what you see in it; the personal admission about your dog; and the #33 placement of There Will Be Blood, which has felt like a kind of all-or-nothing proposition. “Revere it or don’t!” I like hearing a hearty endorsement that also permits some qualifiers.

  • 15 1-04-2010 at 12:13 am

    Nigel Bridgeman said...

    Put me down as someone who preferred The Bourne Supremacy as well. Damon’s confessional at the end of the film is one of my favourite scenes of the decade.

    These end-of-decade lists that have popped up over the last week or so just highlight how few films I’ve really seen. Of Guy’s top 50 that he has revealed so far I’ve seen four.

  • 16 1-04-2010 at 1:08 am

    Erik 815 said...

    I’m very pleased to see so many people preferring Supremacy, so put me down for membership in that club too.

    My main issue with Bourne Ultimatum was how credibility was thrown out the window in the third act, with Bourne giving “clever” clues that only Landy figures out, then inexplicably breaking into CIA hq despite being on their most wanted list, where the CIA director has conveniently printed out secret files in his safe revealing his entire evil plot, which Bourne conveniently saw him put in there from across the street, while seeing his easy to remember safe code. Also, shoehorning in Julia Stiles as a semi-love interest was a bit jarring, but at least they held back on that one.

    Bourne Supremacy had a great sense of tension because in 15 minutes they throw the relatively upbeat tone of the first one out the window and break Hollywood convention by killing off the beautiful and likeable girlfriend (without introducing a new one to boot!). Bourne as a character was at his most interesting here, because he is driven by self-preservation and revenge, and increasingly the latter appears to become his main driving force. I truly believed him to be a potiontially violent and dangerous character, not a boy-next-door who finds out he was a cia assassin in his ‘former’ life, who deep down just wants to live happily ever after at the beach with his girlfriend. Supremacy gave us someone who has a character that allows him to be unscrupulous, but also one that can be manipulated, and his struggle with morality in the wake of his girlfriend’s death makes him (and the film’s conclusion) all the more compelling.

    All of which is not to say that I don’t think Ultimatum is not a very good film. I do. It’s very well crafted, well acted, and I enjoyed the many notes of symmetry with the first one. It’s just not as good as Supremacy.

  • 17 1-04-2010 at 2:28 am

    Chris said...

    I only just saw “The Good Girl” two days ago and it played with my emotions even more than “Antichrist” did. I can see its worth, but I really don’t think I could put it on my list of favourites.

    Apart from that I like every single one of these films.

  • 18 1-04-2010 at 3:38 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Billyboy: My (minor) issues with the film mainly concern the last act, which, as fascinating as it is, I found a little disconnected from the whole in terms of tone and pacing. In a way, that’s what makes it striking — for me, “There Will Be Blood” is one of those odd cases that is enriched by its imperfections.

    Nick: I freely admit that “The Good Girl” is my own weird pet, apparently shared with no one. We all need those, don’t we? As for the “Blood” ranking, I’m glad of your understanding — after all, given that I’ve seen more movies than I care to count in the last ten years, every entry on this list has fought hard for its place.

    Glenn: You’ve said what I was trying to say about “Me and You…” rather better than I did.

    Nigel and Erik: You’ve persuaded me to take another look at “Supremacy” — not particularly arduous homework, as I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time round.

    Chris: I’m intrigued by your emotional reaction to “The Good Girl” — can you elaborate? Most don’t credit it with that much complexity, though I obviously do.

  • 19 1-04-2010 at 4:48 am

    Erik 815 said...

    Guy, do let us know what your second impression was. For me it was the only one that worked completely: It brings out the character of a man who can be molded into a killer, but his experiences drive him to make a different choice (and note that he doesn’t actually kill anyone throughout the film).

    I get your Jennifer Aniston thing. She is a bit of a one-trick pony, but she does that trick really, really well. A bit like Drew Barrymore, who never seemed to versatile (before last year), but was always immensly watchable. Heck, Sean Connery won the oscar for playing Sean Connery. I prefer actors who do what they do well, but know their limits, to actors who try all kinds of different things, but end up sticking out like a sore thumb.

    As for TWBB, I’m a sucker for symmetry, and for me the last act was enhanced by the first. They’re bookends. In the first act, he’s nothing, he has no-one, and he has to do backbreaking labor to become something. In the last act, he is a made man, who doesn’t have to lift a finger anymore. He begins the film all alone, and ends all alone after driving away his son and killing his (admittedly pathetic) antagonist. In the first 15 suddenly H.W. appears, in the last he is told he is a bastard (and this remains – i think – deliberately unresolved). I like to think as the first and last 15 minutes not as complete acts, but more of an extended prologue and epilogue, and definitely two parts to be considered together., in the way they enhance the “main” story, a.k.a. the 2 hours in between (pretty much the whole stretch with Dillon Freasier as H.W.)

  • 20 1-04-2010 at 7:24 am

    Patryk said...

    Guy: Any way we will get to see 51-100?

  • 21 1-04-2010 at 8:04 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Patryk: I thought 50 films was enough to bombard the site with! (And more than enough for me to write up.)

    But I’m pleasantly surprised by the positive response to the list so far, so if there’s enough call for it, I might consider offering a no-frills, titles-only list of the other 50 also-rans, in alphabetical order.

    By the way, to answer a touchingly sympathetic email I got from a reader: when I say I “lost” my dog in the “Wendy & Lucy” snippet, I don’t mean he went missing like Lucy. Lewis passed on after 15 very happy years. Hope that puts your mind at rest!

  • 22 1-04-2010 at 9:30 am

    Adam Smith said...

    @Guy: I definitely would vote yes on an alphabetical, titles-only list of #51-100. I could always use more movies to add to my Netflix queue (I did the same thing with Chad Hartigan’s list, which is also quite awesome).

    I already tweeted about this with Guy, but based on its ranking in this list, I watched Last Resort this morning (Netflix Instant Queue, check it). It’s a very lovely film that has this sensation of almost evaporating as you watch it. The experience is almost fleeting, but that’s not a negative. It’s really a very small glimpse into the lives of these people, and because it revolves around people who survive very much on a day-to-day basis (the way each day ended with a fade to black before a quick cut to the next scene was an effective way of creating that effect), it’s fitting. It isn’t to say that the effect they have on each other isn’t profound or important. But it reminds me of my own experience of a brief but significant relationship with a foreign girl visiting the States. In the moment, it’s very powerful and you really make an impression on each other. For a while after, you’ll probably think about each other a lot. But time goes on, life keeps on moving, and you have to move with it. You don’t forget, but you think about the person less and less. They remain in your memory as just an occasional glimpse at the time you had, and it’s a great nostalgic memory, but it’s not the foremost thing in your life like it was then. And especially in a situation where you never see the other person again (not in person, anyway), they take on this sort of ethereal quality–it’s hard to remember who’s the actual person, and who’s the image of the way you want to remember them. I doubt Alfie will ever see Tanya and her son again, and the way the final shot just gets blinded by light in the end, engulfing Tanya and her son, really captures that sense. For Alfie, they still exist, they obviously still go on and live their lives, but for him, they’re gone. They’re just a memory. A powerful one, but one, like all memories, that fades with time, but remains very special.

  • 23 1-04-2010 at 9:32 am

    Adam Smith said...

    One last thing: I initially worried that the implied critique of bureaucracy would weigh down the film, but I didn’t find that it distracted from the overall honesty of the piece. The more I think about it, the more I love it, and the more I say that this was a real top-notch choice, Guy.

  • 24 1-04-2010 at 10:36 am

    red_wine said...

    Another great list Guy. Though I must say I don’t really take Aniston seriously as an actress. I’ve seen some of The Good Girl on TV and it seemed pleasant enough but not extra-ordinary. And I feel Aniston is so honed into her sitcom roots that even in her ‘seroius’ scenes, i feel she’ s gonna scrunch up her face and crack a joke.

    Very nice to see inclusions of A Prophet & Fish Tank. Talking about There Will be Blood, it is flawed and indulgent but it brims with greatness. But yet I actually prefer Punch-Drunk Love which in its own modest way is more fully-realized than the later epic. I wondered how would Anderson’s auteur sensibilities translate to a definitely non-auteur genre like romantic comedy but the results were dazzling. Anderson is a master.

    And ah, Wendy & Lucy, that would be an easy Top 20 for me, maybe even Top 15 or Top 10 if I make a decade list, I think its a pretty extra-ordinary movie, its cred is only going to increase in coming years. I shall be a life-long devotee of Michelle Williams after this film though I liked her before too.

    And confession, I’ve not seen a single Bourne movie. They never interested me that much.

  • 25 1-04-2010 at 12:15 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Adam: Thanks so much for sharing that response. While much of this list-making business is self-amusement, it’s responses like yours that make the activity worthwhile. I’m thrilled and flattered that you and others have been inspired to seek out these titles on my recommendation.

  • 26 1-04-2010 at 6:31 pm

    SJG said...

    I guess I have to be the only one (except for Guy of course) to stick up for the grossly underrated and under-appreciated Jennifer Aniston. I’m not particularly eager to heap her with praise or anything, but she’s a thoroughly competent and (more importantly) *believable* actress who does engaging work while respecting her limitations.

    I think she’s totally bogged down by having everyone associate her, both as a person and as an actress, with Rachel Green. But if you ignore her “Friends” work, you find that she’s quite capable of deft comedic performances, as in “Office Space”, and she’s even done some standout work in more dramatic roles, like “The Good Girl” and even (dare I say it?) “The Break Up”.

    She doesn’t exhibit a great deal of versatility, that’s certainly true, but within the range of roles that she’s capable of she’s truly great.