Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Best Films of the Decade (Cont.)

44. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN - Directed by Tomas Alfredson (2008)

Films about supernatural creatures and classic monsters are tricky. If you take a look at the history of vampire films, you're likely to find something like a 1% success rate, by which I mean: for every 100 films about vampires, only 1 was good. Up until I saw LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, I couldn't remember the last time I had seen one. I like INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, but that was so long ago and I wouldn't call that film great. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, however, is great.

The Swedish film is beautifully executed and haunting. I don't particularly care for films that prominently feature children, but the performances here are excellent. The relationship between the social outcast, Oskar, and the new girl in town/vampire, Eli, is captured so well and is so touching that I'd be hard-pressed not to acknowledge it as one of the greatest friendships in cinematic history. The film's quiet and melancholy moments are punctuated by extreme moments of vampiric violence, which shock, but also delight in their brutality. I remember seeing this film around the time that TWILIGHT's popularity was starting to peak. In that world, the vampires act like they are something tragic, but in reality, they are clean, nice, and possess few disadvantages in life. Eli is truly a tragic monster, complete with all the drawbacks of being a vampire. Her life is hard, violent, and very dark. This is not the type of vampire that anyone would want to be, which makes her story a lot more interesting. The details of her life and mental state are not given within the film and have to be wondered at. The realizations you come to about her life on your own, possibly days after viewing the film, are the things that make this film truly special.

Unfortunately, the American DVD release of the film was tainted by inferior subtitles that greatly effect its quality. Due to the enormous amount of negative feedback, the distributor stated that they would release a DVD with the original, theatrical subtitles, but I'm not sure that that's yet been done. An American remake of the film directed by Matt Reeves (CLOVERFIELD) called LET ME IN is due out later this year. This seems like a foolish idea, but I won't judge until I see the film.

Awards: Won Saturn Award for Best International Film, Won Best Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival, Nominated for The BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film, Currently on the IMDB Top 250 list, it also maintains an impressive 97% at Rotten Tomatoes - receiving only 4 negatives reviews out of over 150.

43. THE 25TH HOUR - Directed by Spike Lee (2002)

For a while, THE 25TH HOUR was my favorite film. This is one of Spike Lee's strongest projects and certainly his best in recent memory. The action follows Montgomery Brogen (Edward Norton) in the final days before having to serve a 7-year jail sentence for a drug-related crime. The supporting performances by Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman are very strong. Besides being Monty's friends, they have their own issues. Set against the backdrop of 9/11 ravaged New York, The 25th Hour is fast-paced, thoughtful and always has you questioning how everything is eventually going to play-out.

Awards: 25TH Hour was grossly overlooked and didn't receive any awards of note. It maintains a 78% at Rotten Tomatoes and was #2 on the AV Clubs Top 50 Films of the Decade list.

42. MYSTIC RIVER - Directed by Clint Eastwood (2003)

One word to describe this film: powerful. Three kids are playing together on a Boston sidewalk when a car pulls up. The man inside says he's a police officer and demands that the kids come with him, two resist, but one goes along. This moment in time changes the lives of these three people forever and propels the plot of the film until the very end. MYSTIC RIVER is, at times, a very good mystery, but it's mainly an actor-driven character piece. Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins all give memorable performances with the skillful hand of Eastwood to guide them. I don't really want to give too much info away about the film, but just writing about it reminds me that I haven't seen it in a while and I really would like to soon.

Awards: Won Academy Award for Best Actor - Sean Penn, Won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor - Tim Robbins, Nominated Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Currently on the IMDB Top 250

41. THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING - Directed by Peter Jackson (2001)

If you talk to anyone about this trilogy, you're likely to find many different opinions. Everyone has their favorite among the three. I feel that THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING is the only one that deserves to be on this list. I enjoy all of the Rings films, but I enjoy the books more. Part 1 really captures the spirit of the books, and the awesome feeling I had while reading them, more than the other two. Whereas TOWERS and RETURN feature prominently the world of men and epic battle scenes, FELLOWSHIP is pure fantasy, introducing the uninitiated into this vast world with ease and excitement. The prologue to the film delivers necessary information in a riveting sequence that doesn't feel at all like the exposition that it is. The Black Riders, The House of Elrond, and the Mines of Moria, are straight come out of my imagination in a way that I couldn't even dare to improve. RETURN won Best Picture, but this film is really the heart and soul of the series.

Awards: Won Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup, Best Score, and Best Cinematography, Nominated Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Best Supporting Actor (McKellen), Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Original Song, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay, Currently on IMDB's Top 250 list at #18.

40. GANGS OF NEW YORK - Directed by Martin Scorsese (2002)

This film, too, was, at one time, my favorite movie. However, I wasn't sure about including it on my list because repeated viewings have found it less impressive. But Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as Bill the Butcher elevates this film to the level I'm looking for. He's the antagonist, but one you like, not just for how bad he is, but because he truly is somewhat likeable. His accent is perfect and his viciousness is done with such a level of entertainment, it's hard to disapprove of him. Acting opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, who is OK as Amsterdam Vallon, but not particularly energetic, you might be persuaded to root for the butcher. Another great aspect of this film is the sets. It is New York - 1846 as the above trailer says. It's almost like something out of a painting. The ending of the film shows the landscape turn into New York circa 2000 c.e. and it's hard to believe how much has changed from these barbaric times not 200 years ago. Apparently George Lucas visited the set and marveled at all that Scorsese was attempting and told him "you can do this all with computers now". I respect Scorsese so much for not going that route. Lastly, the opening scenes of this film are probably some of the craziest/cool moments in cinema.

Awards: Nominated for 10 Academy Awards including - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Costume Design (how it didn't win this I haven't the foggiest), Best Cinematography, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay, Day-Lewis picked up the BAFTA for Best Actor in a Lead Role

So, the countdown from 50-40 is as follows:

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