March 3, 2010
After lots of negotiation, blood, sweat, and tears, I have finally agreed to contribute to this fine institution. As my inaugural post I thought I would follow the trend of making a list of 25 movies I feel are worth seeing at least once (and preferably multiple times). However unlike my fellow authors on this site, I will not claim that these are the best films made in the past decade, but only that they are films I found particularly compelling and are among my own personal favorites. I listed these films in the order they came to mind rather than ranking them individually, thus there is no overarching hierarchy to this list at all. Many of these films are from wildly different genres that are in many ways incommensurable with each other and it would be next to impossible to say why I thought one was better than the other. So grab your popcorn, sit back in your chair, turn down the lights, and prepare yourself for my favorite films of the past decade (and please, just shut up and watch the movie).
This film by Martin Scorsese expects a great deal from the audience just to follow along. Hard cuts and little exposition keep you on your toes as you watch this movie, and you’ll become hopelessly lost if you aren’t paying very close attention to whats going on at all times. While this doesn’t sound like the most pleasant experience, it does keep you extremely engaged with the film from the opening title until the final credits roll. The plot of this movie is full of twists and turns, making you feel as if you never know just whom you can trust. The message of this film seems to be that this world is rotten to the core and that no good deed is left unpunished and it achieves its goal splendidly. A superb script really drives the message home when coupled with amazing performances by a star-studded cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, and Vera Farmiga. DiCaprio’s Billy Costigan was particularly compelling as you could see the toll of working as an undercover agent take its effect on him. Overall, this is a brilliant piece of cinematography by Scorsese and it’s likely to be held next to “The Godfather” as a masterpiece in years to come.
This film is a rare breed indeed, as it is a parody that is so well crafted it actually succeeds at the very thing it was mocking. Everything from the script, to the acting, props, editing, and music selection is used to create a vivid picture of a small English town that suddenly explodes into “a non stop action extravaganza!” The comedy is top-notch, and includes many subtle running gags that take a careful eye to catch. Every aspect of the film is in many ways tied to the many action movie clichés we’ve seen time and time again over the years. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost both do an amazing job of creating believable characters and identifiable characters that are caught in a unbelievable and ridiculous situation. This is by far one of the funniest movies I’ve seen, and if you’ve ever seen a bad action film you should appreciate much of the humor, as well as the action, found in this film.
Zach Snyder once again faithfully translates an excellent comic into the medium of film with this movie. Long thought to be unfilmable, the Watchmen film passed through many hands before finally being picked up by Snyder. This film does a superb job of creating a setting that is at once recognizable and believable, despite just how fantastical much of it is. In many ways, the setting itself overshadows the wonderful performances given by this films talented cast. What really defines this movie, however, is the philosophical conflict between Rorschach and Ozymandias. This conflict underlies the whole film and leaves you thinking long after you’ve finished watching. One last thing I’d like to comment on, in regard to the film, is the change made to the ending. I actually think the film ending is more effective than the one found in the comic as it ties the threat back to a known entity, rather than an unknown one.
While “fast zombies” are now a staple of the zombie movie genre, that was not always the case. For many years zombies were a slow, shuffling, inevitable threat as found in films like “Dawn of the Dead.” However, all of that changed with the release of this film. Zombies were now rage filled ravenous hunters. What really helps this film succeed is the fact that it does take time to encounter these zombies. Waking up in a completely deserted city and trying to find some aspect of civilization is a horrific thought for almost everyone. The score in this film really enhances the inherent tension of the situation as well. Every note and beat builds to a crescendo that leaves you panting, as if you were fleeing yourself. The story is quite good as well, and drives home the point that even in a postapocalyptic world infested with zombies, the most dangerous threat is your fellow-man.
Sin City is a movie that favors style over almost everything else. This movies tries very hard, and succeeds, at emulating many if the aspects of film noir. While some might say the performances given in this are “over done” or sub-par, this is only because they can’t appreciate how much noir drips from every syllable. The costuming, editing, and script bring this film closer to such classics as “The Big Sleep” than anything else made in the past decade. Combine that with new technology that allows for some of the most stark visuals in any film and you’ve got an excellent movie. The vignette format also gives you the felling that this isn’t just a story, but a real city, and you’re hearing confessions from its inhabitants. Even if you’re normally put off by violent films, I’d still recommended this movie just for the sheer experience.
Those are the first five movies I wanted look at, I’ll most likely add more soon.