Monday, February 15, 2010

Top 101 Movies of the Decade (80-76)

80. Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)

Into the Wild is the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) who, after graduating college, decided to give up his material wealth and travel across the country to the Alaskan wilderness. Sean Penn's film focuses on his journey getting there and the various individuals who help shape his life along the way. The film is gorgeously lensed and helped by wonderful supporting performances along the way, including Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener and Kristin Stewart. Special notice must go to Hal Holbrook (who received a well deserved Academy Award nomination for just 7 or 8 minutes of screen time), Holbrook's ability to act with just his face is astounding - I don't think I've ever seen such sadness in a human being's face as in Holbrook's climactic scene. The film's musical score (by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam) is also one of the best of the decade.

79. Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007)

Despite a bit too quirky script, Juno is a showcase for one of the best ensemble performances of the decade. Juno, Jason Reitman's second feature length movie, is the humorous story of a pregnant high school girl. J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney are great and touching as Juno's pragmatic and loving parents. Michael Cera gives his most genuine performance as the father of Juno's child. Best of all, though, are Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner: they play a yuppie couple Juno selects to give her child to after it's born. Both inhabit their roles with such life and genuine emotion that the movie soars when they take the screen. Garner, in particular, has a moment when she first feels the unborn child kick from within Juno's stomach that is one of the most genuine moments of the decade in film.

78. Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis, 2000)

Cast Away is about a man stranded on an island in the middle of an ocean after a plane crash. Tom Hanks clearly gives his all to the role, physically transforming from a slightly portly white collar worker to a trim haggard castaway. It takes a special sort of actor and performance to be the only human on screen for nearly two hours of a film's run time - Hanks' most frequent partner on screen is volleyball that washes up on the island from the crash he lovingly deems Wilson. Hanks is so effective in the role that the audience comes to value his emotional connection with a volleyball. Robert Zemeckis, directing his last live action movie before turning his attention to the soulless computer generated zombie-characters of The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol for the rest of the decade, effectively and compellingly structures Hanks' life on the island in a way that never ceases to be compelling.

77. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Tim Burton, 2007)

While Sweeney Todd takes a little while to pick up steam, once it does Johnny Depp carries the film on the shoulders of, arguably, his strongest career performance. Depp plays Sweeney Todd, a vengeful serial murdering barber, who disposes of the bodies by teaming up with his neighbor, a baker named Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), to sell the victims in pies. This is, of course, a musical and while Depp doesn't have the greatest singing voice ever recorded he has a startling ability to act facially while singing. Helena Bonham Carter, similarly, is far from a gorgeous singer but she too sells each song with aplomb. Alan Rickman and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) are great in support. The mad vision of Tim Burton brings the entire experience together as one of the most curious and compelling films of the decade.

76. The 40 Year Old Virgin (Judd Apatow, 2005)

It speaks to the success in the formula of this movie that nearly every actor, then more or less unknown, has gone on to become a recognizable name. Steve Carell, Seth Rogan, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Jane Lynch, Kat Dennings, Leslie Mann and Romany Malco all broke through thanks to this film. The movie is well known for its raunchy humor. But beneath all the dick jokes is an effective romantic comedy, with a pair of lead actors that are easy to care about. Steve Carell is, basically, the perfect everyman actor: he's funny, likable and clearly never takes himself too seriously. This appeal helps makes the movie click and make the audience care. Director Judd Apatow found a special mix of romance and gross out humor that makes for one of the best romantic comedies of the decade.

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)


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