'Twas the decade of adaptations: comic books, video games, tv shows, & plays -- the plays themselves often adapted from previous films (or classic albums/artist catalogues); a decade of sprawling anthologies & hasty remakes, lackluster computer animation, & less-than-compelling 3D (has it ever been more-than?) & yes - some or all of these qualities apply to both foreign & domestic mainstream contemporary cinema. So, what can be said of the independent genre (because, after all this time, it really is a genre)... Franchise rights & million dollar cartoon dragons & robots have stolen all the thunder, leaving only the innovation of consumer grade digital video as the last 'edge' in originality. Cinephiles & mainstream critics alike have adapted to the times, & mediocrity has become the new standard of "masterpiece." Now, I have no personal vendetta; I only use this because it's a recent example, & it's one of the few new films I've bothered to see in the past six months: out of all the reviews I've read for Inception, I'm left with this very specific summation: "It's not a masterpiece... but it's one of the greatest films ever made." There can only be one of two explanations for this mass contradiction: either people can't seem to own up to how they really feel about the movie (good or bad), or they've simply been conditioned to praise anything that isn't one of the aforementioned "adaptations" as "original."
The truly troubling thing here is that: this is just the beginning. In 1999, Entertainment Weekly noted that very same year as "the year that changed movies." Not that we needed it to be pointed out to us - we all felt it - but the validation itself only enhanced the exhilaration. EW, like the rest of us, was wrong. After the slew of stale movies released in 2000, & when Traffic lost to Gladiator, I, for one, thought it was immediately obvious as to how wrong we were. Not that I was instantly fatalistic regarding the entire decade to come - but all the promising aspects of '99 eventually let me down in one way or another: the hokey subsequent Star Wars prequels, the decline in CGI standards, the increasing inadequacy of Wes Anderson & Shyamalan, the near-absence of P.T. Anderson, & the absolute absence of Kubrick.
I say these things not to be sensationalistic; they come out of mere, honest frustration. Throughout the '90s, I was convinced the 80s were the worst decade in film. I was wrong; & I definitely don't say that in any kinda comparative sense -- I was 180 degrees wrong. Collectively, the 80s were great in nearly every sense, & if any point can be made outta this rant, it's this: I like my comedies PG (or PG-13) & my horror & action movies R.
I can't be sure of what can be said of the fact that it's completely backwards now -- only that it's clear that everything is really wrong & bad, & I've just about given up.
10. The Devil's Rejects In no way like the Freddy or Jason fan base -- it takes an intense amount of talent to turn a posse of serial killers & rapists into likable protagonists in the span of one film. (Corpses doesn't play into this sentiment).
9. Bubble The only thing more surprising than the acute sense of realism is the sudden left turn into surrealism. Point being, the film was a surprise - a rarity in one's lifetime, let alone this decade.
8. Zodiac Proof that Fincher will always do his best work in the crime genre. More notably, the best male performance of the 2000s goes to Mark Ruffalo's understated (& underrated) portrayal of Inspector Toschi.
7. Secretary "Romantic Comedy" has been synonymous with "shit" for nearly ever. This film is proof that no genre or sub-genre is completely hopeless. Great films have nothing to do with what side of Blockbuster you can find them on.
6. 21 Grams After Pulp Fiction filmmakers managed to drive non-linear storytelling into the ground. Sometimes it was necessary to the structure - most times an annoying gimmick. The astounding thing about 21 Grams is that these scenes could play out in any order (linear included) and it would still be compelling & visually stunning.
5. The Pledge The Crossing Guard was a very loose but good film filled with a lotta cynicism & melodrama - pretty much what you'd expect with Sean Penn behind the camera. So it comes as a pleasant shock to find The Pledge to be a tight genre picture that still manages to be wholly original. & of course, any time Jack doesn't play "Jack" is a fascinating thing to watch.
4. Unbreakable The film that convinced me that, one day, Shymalan would trump both Spielberg and Hitchcock. It barely beats Dark Knight as the best comic book movie of all time.
3. INLAND EMPIRE With the freedom of digital video, Lynch is now able to illustrate an almost literal stream-of-consciousness structure through visual prose - something we've all kinda been waiting for since Eraserhead.
2. About Schmidt Another instance of Nicholson playing his age. But even more than that; he earns the character of Warren Schmidt with such humility that he sells an incredibly fragile parting shot that, in the hands of most other actors/writers/directors, it would've come off as sentimental hogwash.
1. No Country For Old Men The best film in a career of otherwise 'best films' - for two directors who explore every genre of cinema, this is the ultimate 'Coen film.' If I were to show someone a Coen Brothers movie who'd never seen one, this would be it. A thriller that would make Hitchcock jealous.