Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Favorite Movies: 2000-2009 (20-11)

20. Team America: World Police
the only film on this list done entirely with puppets...unfortunately. its a shame that south park creators trey parker and matt stone only do a movie every decade or so because all of them have been pretty damn funny. though this one is not just funny, its a biting satire on war, terrorism, the media, and i cant recall a second in this movie i didnt love and really think its one of the most perfectly executed comedies of all time. even from the opening shot of a puppet in the backdrop of paris operating a puppet to a cockroach version of kim jong il to playing away in a tiny spacecraft and then back to 'everyone has AIDS,' this is one of the funniest movies of all time much less the decade.

and oh yeah...MATT DAMON

19. Piano Teacher, The/La Pianiste
so now we are going from satirical puppet comedy to a twisted tale of BS&M piano teacher/student relationships. this is the final of four films by director michael haneke on the list and it is the most intriguing of his films. isabelle huppert stars as a firm riged stick up the ass piano teacher living with a controlling verbally abusive elderly mother. she meets a young student who unleashes in her weird sexual obsessions that have just existed in her private life. one of the best examples of class struggle and sexual perversion combined, it is a dark and strange experience and perhaps his most disturbing since funny games (which was remade this decade with naomi watts to some success). below is a very good representative scene towards the beginning of the film

18. Match Point
the aughts will be known as the decade where woody allen found his touch again. after stumbling with a series of films in the mid to late 90s, he made 3 films which many consider to be among his best, melinda and melinda, vicky cristina barcelona, and this film. returning to subject matter and styles closer to interiors than annie hall, this fascinating morality play featured some brilliant performances and an absolutely rivetting and mind bending conclusion. i am a huge woody allen fan and even loved the much criticisized scoop but match point was definitely a deviation from his traditional styles and moods. while i do mention interiors above, there is no hint of scandanavian bergmanesque pretension. it is just a great, well acted drama that is yet another entry into the excellent canon of woody allen.

17. Isle, The/Seom
another well respected director on this list is korean auteur ki duk kim. he is one of my favorite directors working today and this early-ish work of his is my favorite one of his films. the plot of this film is a fine representation of his usual themes. this film is quite literally a manifestation of the phrase 'man is an island.' a woman works at a small resort in which men live in tiny houses on a lake to fish. on this resort, her main responsibility is to take prostitutes who arrive out to the men in the lake. she meets one such man who feels a similar type of lonliness and isolation that she feels. like all of kim's works, the emphasis is not on words but on moods and feelings. originally i watched this because i thought it was a horror movie but discovered one of the most intense psychological character dramas i have ever seen. this movie changed my life. i included the trailer but my favorite scene is on youtube. however, its the final shot and without the context of the rest of the movie doesnt make any sense. my apologies to anyone who doesnt speak korean (like me)

16. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
dark foreign film. uproarious comedy. i think we have a trend here. harold and kumar. what is there is to say about this film. this film is an instant cult classic and destined to be the beginning of a great and very funny franchise. what i am going to talk about is my favorite scene of the movie--the scene where they finally get to white castle. after 90 minutes of buildup and epic journeys, they finally arrive at white castle. beaten up but no beaten, they order their burgers and fries and they eat. they eat like they never have before. such cinematic gratification i have never seen before and when they were eating those burders, i wanted to get up and applaude. it is felt so good to see people really get exactly what they want. and ive totally serious too. it is was seriously amazing to watch. oh yeah, the battleshits scene was pretty funny too. my favorite sequence begins at 3:19 below

15. Hard Candy
for just about everyone, ellen page is juno, a spunky pregnant teen. but for me, she is hayley stark, one of the most intriguing, mysterious characters of modern film. in hard candy she plays a 14 y/o girl who meets a 32 year old guy on the internet and meets him. said man is played brilliantly by patrick wilson. he is a pedophile but seems like a really cool, nice, good looking guy and she seems like a really mature girl who an older guy who really could fall for. but this movie is all about appearances and who characters appear to be. hayley stark is soon not be revealed to be who she is and neither is wilson's character. what follows is a 2 character play of exacting twisted revenge in the name of those who were taken advantage of. as great as wilson is in this, the film belongs to page whose cool, sophisciated demeanor fades into a cold, calculating femme fatale quickly and ruthlessly. without a doubt, one of the most uniquely played 2 character dramas since Sleuth (michael caine and sir laurence olivier)

14. Nobody Knows/Dare mo shiranai
the 4th most depressing movie ive ever seen and like most of the top 5, it is japanese. they certainly do like depressing the fuck of their people. directed by hirokazu koreeda, whose 2009 film still walking is appearing on many year end best of lists, nobody knows is about a small family (eldest child 12) who is abadoned by their mother and forced to survive on their own. needless to say, things dont go terribly well. someone this did not receive a lot of attention in the west which is absolutely ridiculous. a film this powerful and moving needed to be seen by more people. the film is really about what horrible things parents can do to their child and how selfish one particular parent was. what makes it even more devastating is that this was based on a true story.
13. Chicken Run
away from the sad realm of japanese film (for a bit) and into the wonderful land of nick park. chickenrun was my favorite film of 2000 and it has held up very very well over the last decade. with wallace and gromit (the curse of the wererabbit nearly made the list) still kickin' this delightful tale of chickens overcoming the evil tweedy farm family is still awesome. i love those plucky chickens (pun intended!). well, frankly i dont have a lot to write on this film and im kinda running outta gas on this particular film. its cute, funny, and another reason NOT to hate mel gibson. man, this guy must be talented to have dodged as much crap as he is this decade. dag. alright, two more left. i can do this.

no video clip...but i think you can WATCH THE MOVIE HERE

12. Best of Youth, The
every decade needs an epic italian drama and in the 00's we got this one. huzzah! shown in 2 parts, this incredible work is a typical family generational drama but was especially poignant. like all good films of this nature, there is a relationship between 2 brothers that gets severed by time and interest coupled with tragic deaths and political movements. everything i am saying right now isnt terribly new or original but just particular well done. i havent seen many movies that are this effortlessly six hours. in scope, i would legimately compare this to the godfather I and II or to lesser known italian masterpieces like ermano olmi's tree of wooden clogs. im not really surprised that this one didnt get an oscar nomination as it was produced for italian television. this doesnt mean its not brilliant or a masterpiece. in fact, just put it on the netflix q already.

11. All About Lily Chou-Chou
ok the last of the runners up. after this its all top ten and im really excited because this is taking way longer than i wrote it would. ok, here we go. so of all the obscure foreign films i put on this list, this one is the most obscure from a critical standpoint. this one probably wont end up on the end of critics lists which is a damn shame. all about lily chou chou is about two friends and their obsessive fandom over j-pop star lily chou chou. together, they listen to her, see her concerts, write about her on the interwebs and in messages boards. though the two friends do drift apart, their love of lily keeps them together. the way the film is shot is one of the most interesting aspects of an already excellent film. it is very dark and in the middle, there is a 30 minute sequence filmed entirely on hand held video (like blair witch or paranormal activity found footage kind of thing). its unrelenting and paints a portrait of a desperate and increasingly further isolated youth. despite its relative obscurity, it is ranked as one of the top 50 films about music in the IMDB top genre rankings so there is definitely an audience out there. i seriously recommend it of course. AND you can watch it on youtube for free! i embedded the first part below


i left out IN BRUGES! im not sure how this happened but if i had the chance, i would play it into the 70s. sorry. rest assured that i did love that film.