Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Top 101 Movies of the Decade (70-66)

70. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Shane Black, 2005)

A small time criminal (Robert Downey, Jr.) stumbles into a movie audition after a botched robbery, ends up winning the job and is sent to Hollywood to train with a private investigator (Val Kilmer) for his role. From there, the odd pair stumbles into a conspiracy involving the murder of an heiress. A childhood friend of Downey's character (played with humor and sex appeal by Michelle Monaghan) also contacts the duo to investigate the death of her sister. Together, the three investigate the crimes. Director Shane Black, working from one hell of a witty script, does a great job lovingly playing on film noir conventions. The film's title actually arises from an old reference to James Bond movies: it's the simplest explanation for what you see in a spy movie. The film, a core part of Robert Downey's comeback from substance abuse issues, features stellar performances from all three leads.

69. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)

In a change from the brand of dark comedy they're known for, No Country for Old Men is a far more serious film from the Coen brothers. Dealing with the consequences of stumbling upon the money from a drug deal gone awry, No Country is bleak and brutal. It is gorgeously lensed by cinematographer Roger Deakins, who uses the visuals of the Mexican border to spectacular effect. While all the actors are strong here, the most enduring performance from the film is Javier Bardem's as Anton Chigurh. Chigurh is a hitman hired to recover the drug money and cuts a brutal path through the countryside with his silenced shotgun and captive bolt pistol (basically a SCUBA tank attached to an air gun that is used in the killing of cattle). His performance is also marked by a degree of icy restraint and detachment that prevent the work from ever falling into the scenery chewing or histrionic. Chigurh is, along with Heath Ledger's Joker, the most interesting villain in film of the decade.

68. Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)

Despite overflowing with dirty jokes and gross out humor, Superbad actually has a really genuine message about the importance of friendship. The core that makes the movie work is the bond between Seth and Evan (Jonah Hill and Michael Cera), bickering, attached-at-the-hip, best friends about to head off to different colleges. Along with nerdy cohort McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the trio spend a day trying to get alcohol to impress their pretty classmates. The movie lags a bit in the middle, but, all told, it is the funniest and most enjoyable high school coming of age movie this past decade.

67. Insomnia (Christopher Nolan, 2002)

Thinking back on Insomnia, I sometimes wonder if it is the last great performance Al Pacino will ever get in a film (for most of the rest of the decade, he only appeared in dreg like 88 Minutes, Righteous Kill and Gigli). Christopher Nolan's second movie, Insomnia is about two LA detectives (one played by Pacino) tasked with traveling to Alaska, to a town where the summer's are filled with perpetual daylight, to assist the local police (including Hilary Swank) investigate the murder of a 17 year old girl. Robin Williams plays a crime novelist suspected of being involved in the girl's death. This, along with One Hour Photo, is one of two truly unsettling performances given by Robin Williams in 2002. With his usual manic energy under lock and key, Williams is deeply unsettling, yet magnetic, in Nolan's film. Christopher Nolan has a real knack for atmosphere in his movies and Insomnia is no exception. He uses the perpetual daylight of the Alaskan fishing town of Nightmute to stellar visual and emotive effect.

66. The Road (John Hillcoat, 2009)

The story of The Road is very simple: a man and his son travel across a desolated wasteland trying to get to the coast. The majority of the rest of the population has devolved into cannibalism and savagery. John Hillcoat, who also directed the stellar Australian western The Proposition, nails the ambiance of Cormac McCarthy's source novel and crafts a frightening, but strangely beautiful, world. Viggo Mortensen has never been better - the man's dogged determination to defend his son is heart-wrenching. The supporting players, among them Kodi-Smit McPhee, Charlize Theron and Robert Duvall, are uniformly strong. Sadly, The Road was largely overlooked in its release this past year, but I'm confident time will be kind to the movie and its estimation will grow.

Runner-Up: Blood Diamond (Zwick, 2006)
Runner-Up: Open Water (Kentis, 2004)
Runner-Up: Cinderella Man (Howard, 2005)
Runner-Up: Tigerland (Schumacher, 2000)
Runner-Up: Best in Show (Guest, 2000)
Runner-Up: Letters from Iwo Jima (Eastwood, 2006)
Runner-Up: Saw (Wan, 2004)
101: Big Fish (Burton, 2003)
100: State of Play (Macdonald, 2009)
99: Marley & Me (Frankel, 2008)
98: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Fincher, 2008)
97: Sunshine (Boyle, 2007)
96: 8 Mile (Hanson, 2002)
95: 21 Grams (Iñárritu, 2003)
94: The Hurt Locker (Bigelow, 2009)
93: Y tu mamá también (Cuaron, 2001)
92: Breach (Ray, 2007)
91: Away from Her (Polley, 2007)
90: Stranger Than Fiction (Forster, 2006)
89: Old School (Phillips, 2003)
88: The Queen (Frears, 2006)
87: Garden State (Braff, 2004)
86: Miracle (O'Connor, 2004)
85: Banlieue 13 (Morel, 2004)
84: The Fall (Singh, 2008)
83: Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2.1 (Raimi, 2002/2004)
82: The Last King of Scotland (Macdonald, 2006)
81: Pineapple Express (Green, 2008)
80: Into the Wild (Penn, 2007)
79: Juno (Reitman, 2007)
78: Cast Away (Zemeckis, 2000)
77: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Burton, 2007)
76: The 40 Year Old Virgin (Apatow, 2005)
75: Michael Clayton (Gilroy, 2007)
74: Friday Night Lights (Berg, 2004)
73: The Descent (Marshall, 2006)
72: In the Loop (Iannucci, 2009)
71: In the Shadow of the Moon (Sington, 2007)
70: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Black, 2005)
69: No Country for Old Men (Coen/Coen, 2007)
68: Superbad (Mottola, 2007)
67: Insomnia (Nolan, 2002)
66: The Road (Hillcoat, 2009)


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