Retconning Luke Eddy’s Top 25 Films of the Decade
July 28, 2012
Retcon stands for “retroactive continuity.” It’s a comic book industry term, but it’s used in all kinds of serial fiction these days. Something is retconned when an author goes back and alters the backstory or past events of an ongoing storyline to fit the needs of the current plotline. Perhaps the most famous retcon was carried out by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: the character Sherlock Holmes was just too popular to actually die in that waterfall. Now, to be honest, what I’m doing is technically a revision and not a retcon, but come on, the word retcon is too cool not to use. So what am I retconning? My list of the top 25 films of the last decade, the first article that I posted on this blog. And why am I retconning it? Well, even though the decade was over when I wrote it, there were still lots of great films that I hadn’t seen yet, and not only that, but the order that I would now put the original 25 films in has changed over time as well. If you haven’t read my original list go check it out. That said, I’m not going to rewrite the entire list. I would probably rearrange a lot of the films on it, but I’m only altering the top seven spots, so at least read those entries.
So here goes, my brand new, retconned, top films of the last decade:
Why is it still in spot number one? Because I’m treating the trilogy as a single entry. Like I originally said, the sequential release of the Lord of the Rings films was the greatest cinematic event of its decade. And treating the three films as a single entry allows me two extra spots to highlight other films; devoting three spots, each to a Lord of Rings film, doesn’t seem fair. And you just know all three would be on this list. I will say this though, if I were to split the trilogy into three separate entries, I don’t think they’d be in the order you’d expect. I actually liked The Return of the King the least and The Fellowship of the Ring the most. And if we’re talking about the extended editions, well then The Two Towers is my favorite.
Why did this film move from spot number seven to spot number two? Because most films, when you really start analyzing them or you begin comparing them to other films, you find flaws that you maybe hadn’t noticed before and subsequently you rate the film a little lower, and yet a few films, a rare few, when you do this, you instead realize just how good they really are. I saw The Dark Knight twice while it was in theaters and I was blown away by it. But when I was writing my original list, it was still getting plenty of hype and, even though I loved it, I didn’t want to accidentally jump on a bandwagon, so I put it at number seven. And yet, years later, after the hype has died down, I find myself comparing other films to it, almost as if it were a benchmark. I’ll think, “Wow, that movie was good. But was it as good as The Dark Knight?” No film is perfect, but I feel it’s unhelpful to never give any film a five star rating, something has to be at the top of the chart, something has to set the standard, and in my mind The Dark Knight is such a film.
Why was this film added to this list at spot number three? Because I recently saw it and it’s now one of my favorite films. In fact, this film is the main reason I’m doing this retcon. After I’d seen it, the person who recommended it to me asked where it would fall on my old list of the best films of the last decade. That got me thinking about how else that list might have changed since I originally wrote it. By why is this film so high on the list, at spot number three? Because some films are inspiring, some films have something philosophically meaningful to say, some films are darkly hilarious, some films have amazing performances by every single cast member. But this film, it has all of those, and it combines them perfectly. I won’t say anything else, I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the surprises this film has to offer, so you’ll just have to check it out for yourself.
Why did this film move from spot number two to spot number four? I don’t like this film any less, it’s still certainly one of my favorite films over all. It’s only moved down two spots to make room for a new favorite and for a film I’ve grown to appreciate even more. That said, it’s similar to Stranger Than Fiction, so why did I rate Stranger Than Fiction one spot higher? It’s not necessarily because I like Stranger Than Fiction more, it’s because Stranger Than Fiction is a more accessible film than Little Miss Sunshine. There are certain elements of Little Miss Sunshine that can be off putting to some people, in fact I know certain people who outright hate it, and Little Miss Sunshine’s message, which is actually quite meaningful, can get lost in that. The profundity and the humor of Stranger Than Fiction is an easier experience to share.
Why was this film added to the list at spot number five? I saw this film well before writing the original list and it was already a favorite of mine. I actually debated adding it but in the end decided not to because it’s actually a documentary. But like I said, this is a retcon, and so I’m changing the rules. It’s one of my favorite films and it’s certainly my favorite documentary, it wouldn’t be right to exclude it on some arbitrary pretext of “no documentaries allowed”. Besides, in an eerie and hilarious way, it actually follows the tropes of a typical movie, it’s got the classic underdog hero fighting against the powerful villain aided by his snivelling minions, there’s even the elderly, manipulated authority figure. And all of this is in the context of playing the old Donkey Kong arcade game. It’s painfully hilarious, and yet, surprisingly, it actually has an inspiring message within it. The moral of the film is that the best revenge is going on and living a good life and simply being the better person.
Why did this film move from spot number three to spot number six? I also don’t like this film any less, I still think it’s the funniest film of its decade. It’s certainly funnier than the three films before it, but those three films, in addition to being funny, have something meaningful to say, whereas Hot Fuzz is just pure hilarity. Not that there’s anything wrong with “pure hilarity”, that’s exactly why it’s the sixth best film of the decade.
Why was this film added to the list at spot number seven? In the original list I included a number of “sleeper hits” but Moon gets the award for being the most under appreciated, most un-hyped, and most unrecognized film of the decade. I rented Moon after the decade was over; I’d heard of it but it had a limited release in theaters. After watching it once, I watched it two more times. Baring Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker, of course, there’s a strong argument for Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of the lonely astronaut in Moon as the best performance of the decade. Moon is a hard film to categorize. Above all else, it’s psychological. But is it a psychological drama? Yes…but not a normal one at all. Is it psychological horror? In a way, but not overtly. Is it a psychological thriller? No…and yes. Is it psychological sci-fi? I suppose so, but the emphasis is not on the sci-fi. Not everyone will like Moon, some may think it’s slow moving and too contemplative, but even so, it’s an outstanding film that didn’t get the chance to shine that it deserved. You probably haven’t even heard of it, so do yourself a favor and check it out.
“Wait a minute!” you might be saying, “what happened to Unbreakable, Signs, and V for Vendetta? Those used to be in spots four, five, and six.” Well you’re very observant, and those films are officially eight, nine, and ten now, and everything else, beginning with Gladiator (which was eight), moves down three spots. And the three on the end, Equilibrium, Sunshine, and X2…well, let’s just say it’s a top 28 Films of the Decade now…