Friday, April 9, 2010

Design of a Decade: The Greatest Hits of the '00s - Part I

In this countdown of the "greatest hits" of the past decade, I - your dedicated Stale Popcorn writer - will be sifting through the movies of 2000-2009 and picking out the actors, craftsmen, scenes, characters, moments and other various miscellaneous cinematic treasures that defined the decade. Read the rules and see if you can follow along.

Some spoilers will happen along the way. I cannot escape doing them, I'm afraid.

Also, almost all of the big images (so not the little 120x150 ones you'll see) can be clicked and seen much larger. In some cases it is much, much larger. And I have tested this on Firefox and Chrome and haven't come across anything that looks strange, but if some of the formatting is coming up crazy (images in weird spots, text in the wrong place) then let me know what browser you're on and I'll try to fix.

Hold on to your hats, readers...

SHOT: "Poolside"
Let the Right One In
I was never in the pocket of Tomas Alfredson's Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In like most others, but I cannot deny how stunning it looked. Most poignant of all was this closing image.

MUSIC: "Don't Forget Me" by Chloe Moldovan
The film was a rip-off of Gus Van Sant's Elephant, but the best and most memorable moment came with Adelaide singer-songwriter Chloe Moldovan performing this beautiful song over the credits. An instance of a mere end credits song elevating a film.

CHARACTER: "Nurse Connie"
Played by Marylouise Burke
Series 7: The Contenders
Forgive her father for she has sinned. A lot. And badly.

Thirteen Conversations About One Thing
Four years later and he was winning an Oscar for playing the old grouch in Little Miss Sunshine when in 2002 he was doing it better - and winning a few critics awards while he was at it - in this film by Jill Sprecher (who hasn't made another movie since, sadly, but she does have The Convincer due in 2011, apparently)

SCENE: "Telephone Bomb"
I thought the first half of Steven Spielberg's Munich was astonishing and some of the best work he has ever done. The centrepiece was this sequence. A marvel of tension. Now, about that second half...

CRAFT: Visual Effects
Jeremy Dawson, Dan Schrecker, Mark G. Soper and Peter Park
The Fountain
I'm not going to go on and on about so-and-so not being nominated for an Oscar everytime something like this has already come along, but really. This work by is eye-popping.

"Ashley Johnsten"
Pure delight, but pulls her trump card out at film's end. + Meerkats.

SCENE: "Fire"
In a movie full of bizarre yet hypnotising moments, it was this film climax that soared the most. Watching it won't exactly "spoil" Electroma in any traditional sense, but seeing the poetic closing to Daft Punk's non-musical out of context could possibly ruin a genuinely surprising and, dare I say, tender moment. If you've seen it you will understand why.

SHOT: "Pillars of the Kings"
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
For whatever reason, the one singular image from the entirety of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy that I have seared to my memory is this shot. I really don't know why. I love so much about that trilogy - more of it to come in the countdown, naturally - but for a single, solitary image my brain always drifts here.

PERFORMANCE: Michelle Pfeiffer
"Ingrid Magnussen"
White Oleander
One of the best, yet forgotten, villains of the decade.

CRAFT: Original Score
Marvin Hamlisch
The Informant!

Voiced by Mary Gibbs
Monsters, Inc.
Who didn't love Boo? How come a child made from pixels can be more human than, say, Jae Head in The Blind Side or Freddie Highmore in Finding Neverland?

SHOT: "S4D Onley Ones"
Samson & Delilah
I couldn't decide between this or the forehead kiss under the bridge. Both say so very much.

Monster & Frozen River
There is something about these two films - and if Kimberley Pierce's Boys Don't Cry was a 2000 release instead of 1999 it would rank as a sort of female-directors-and-small-town-trash trilogy. Such evocative sense of place these two films have, which is something I really respond to. That they're both directed by women is a curiosity, but I'm not sure it's anything else.

SCENE: "The Road" and "The Rest Stop"
Fat Girl
I had hated every second of Catherine Breillat's Fat Girl (also known as A ma souer), but then came a scene where the titular character's mother drives home in heavy traffic, dodging cars as she shifts lane to lane. It's hypnotising and does a hell of a job of building up suspect for what I think we can all agree was one of the most polarising endings of the decade. Personally, I liked the end since it actually had some power behind it.

DIALOGUE: Notes on a Scandal
I walked around screaming this for about a week. Hello camp, thy name is Notes on a Scandal

TREND: Aboriginal Cinema
Some of the very best films produced by Australia this past decade were tales of Aboriginal people. Many of them - Samson & Delilah, Beneath Clouds and One Night the Moon were directed by great and talented indigenous directors, while Rabbit-Proof Fence, Ten Canoes and The Tracker were just as potent. Ten Canoes made history by being the first film made entirely in an indigenous language.

SCENE: "The Slap"
American Gangster
The scene in question begins at 0:42. It's barely a minute long and yet it's so memorable. The film was a dud, but Ruby Dee's five minutes worth of Oscar-nominated performance was the best thing about it.

PERFORMANCE: Gael García Bernal
"Ángel" / "Juan" / "Zahara"
Bad Education
I think I've always been upfront that I've never particularly thought that Gael Garcia Bernal was some sort of transcendant, iconic actor in the making. I've always found him to be acceptable and good looking and he tends to make half-decent movies (I am in the minority on thinking The Motorcycle Diaries is not that good, I think) but it all came together in Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education. A brilliant performance in a brilliant film.

PERFORMANCE: Noni Hazlehurst
Little Fish
Aussie icon Noni Hazlehurst actually had quite a stellar decade, and if I was including TV films in this list she may have made it as a broader decade-spanning ranking, but of her three big film performances of the decade - the others being Candy and Bitter & Twisted - it was her "comeback" role in Little Fish that proved greatest of all.

PEOPLE: Wes Anderson
The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited and Fantastic Mr Fox
For better or worse there were so many people making movies like Wes Anderson this decade, and yet even when his own weren't as good - Steve Zissou sticks out amongst the three amazing films listed above - he still kept himself ahead of the imitators. Who exactly expected Anderson to go down the animation route? That's why he's such a fascinating filmmaker.

SHOT: "Chainsaw Holes"
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Just think about this for a second. How long have all these holes been there and how many other people has that chainsaw been trying to get at? I'm a fan of this movie, but the idea of a "Texas chainsaw massacre" gives me the creeps anyway. Thinking about these sort of things doesn't help.

SCENE: "Night"
Black Water
In a film that was chock full of scary movies, it was this scene punctuated only by random flashes of lightning that got my shiverin' in the cinema. Fast forward to 53:50 for the scene.

BLT & Associates
American Gangster
This is what a poster should be. Not some half-arsed cropped movie still on a white background. Trust me, this is the last you'll hear from American Gangster in this countdown. I'm surprised it got this far!

CHARACTER: "The Medeiros Girl"
This is a character reacting to the Medeiros Girl. She ain't pretty. This character is barely even seen and yet she's instantly one of the scariest characters of the decade.

CRAFT: Costume Design
Daniel Orlandi
Down with Love
I remember becoming positively obsessed with the costumes from this Renee Zellweger/Ewan McGregor take on the films of Doris Day and Rock Hudson. They're utterly shameless, as they should be, and I would have given Orlandi the Oscar.

CRAFT: Opening Credits
Catch Me If You Can
Is there any doubt that these are the best opening credits of the decade? I don't think so.

PERFORMANCE: Reese Witherspoon
"Elle Woods"
Legally Blonde
Here's my theory: Anybody who doesn't say Reese Witherspoon's performance in the otherwise fun, but frivolous, Legally Blonde isn't very good is an incredibly poor judge of good acting. But, then again, those are probably the same people who only ever thing portraying real people or putting on 50lbs to play a part is what constitutes great acting so their filmgoing lives are at an immediate disadvantage anyway. Those poor people.

I'm obviously more of a poster kind of guy since it gets a bit tired talking about all the wicked 'sposions in the latest movie-that-looks-like-a-video-game trailer, but this is one of the few times I would gladly sit down and talk about how incredible a trailer is. In a world...

MUSIC: "Briony"
Dario Marianelli
As good as the entire score is I find my mind always goes directly to this piece that opens the film and that, most likely, single-handedly won Dario Marianelli the Academy Award (I prefer the entirety of his score to Pride & Prejudice, but I'm not complaining). I know many hate the use of typewriters, but I love it. Makes it feel a bit more like it belongs to Joe Wright's Atonement and not just any other British period costume drama.

"Don Logan"
Sexy Beast
You'll see a lot more of Jonathan Glazer's other film much later in the countdown, but it was impossible to not place Kingsley on here for his foul-mouthed British gangster in Sexy Beast. In a decade that saw Kingsley's career rollercoaster around more than any others, he went from Oscar-nominated performances like this one and House of Sand and Fog, underrated marvels such as Elegy to travesties of cinema like Thunderbirds, A Sound of Thunder, BloodRayne and What Planet Are You From? Who knows what Kingsley will throw at us next?

PEOPLE: Emily Barclay
In My Father's Den, Suburban Mayhem and Prime Mover
Three movies wouldn't normally be enough to get anybody on this list, but there's something about this New Zealand actress that grabbed my attention something shocking. I see so much in her and really think that if she honestly cares enough for a career then she'll go far. One of my favourite discoveries of the decade, for sure. I just wish she'd make a movie as good as In My Father's Den again.

As a marketing device, this at-the-time unnamed trailer was perfect. Who didn't get a bit of a thrill after watching this, speculating on everything that they could? Of course, the genius of it is that now nobody can ever replicate it.

SHOT: "Wind in the Grass"
A Very Long Engagement
It's just so gorgeous.

EXPERIENCE: Haunted House
When I went to an advance screening of Aussie "candy horror" film Prey there was all sorts of hilarious bits and pieces. I wrote all about it last year and I suggest you re-read it if you want to. It was a hilarious cinema-going night, even if the film was complete and utter awfulness (and, even then, at least it was good for a laugh).

PERFORMANCE: Anne Hathaway
Rachel Getting Married
Seeing Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married was such a relief since it confirmed the belief so many of us had about Anne Hathaway. She's been good before - great, even - but never more so than in this film as the recently rehabbed sister of a Bride. She's proven that she's going to be able to effortlessly slip and slide between the mainstream and the prestige. I can't wait to see what 2010 onwards holds for her.

SHOT: "Freeze"
Bright Star
Wasn't this moment just bliss?

SHOT: "Fish Tank"
Femme Fatale
It's all just part of the puzzle. I love how this shows how director Brian De Palma is, at once, audacious and ridiculously simple.

Do you know how refreshing it is to walk out a movie that you are honest to god despising more and more with every passing second? That Dogtooth was the very first movie I ever walked out on makes it hold a special place in my heart, which is putting more memories on the film that I wish were not there, but that’s the way it goes. Of course, I was coming down with swine flu (or so I suspect) at the time so that probably didn’t help, right? I took a seat on the isle because I thought I might have to leave at some point due to illness, but it came in handy for this completely different reason. I felt so happy with myself. Now, come the 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival I won’t be as hesitant to leave. Life’s to short to endure movies about hidden away families killing cats and licking each others’ body parts. It’s just not.

Dancing at the Blue Iguana
This performance by Sandra Oh has stuck with me for some time now. I really liked this film about strippers in Los Angeles, much more than most others, but it was Oh that gave the standout performance as the poetry-writing Jasmine. She's achingly good and, yet, most people don't even know about it.

MUSIC: "Madame's Model Ballet"
Christopher Gordon
Mao's Last Dancer
A wonderful music score - I would have given it my "gold medal" for 2009 - but it all comes back to this one piece. I watched the movie trailer so much because this piece was featured prominently and now with the soundtrack I have listened to it on repeat.

SCENE: "I Am Your Daughter"
The Others

CRAFT: Original Screenplay
Susannah Grant
Erin Brockovich
Here is one of several moments where I anticipate people will scratch their heads? "What was so special about that screenplay?" (or, as I know many feel, the movie in general). The thing is that there isn't anything particularly revolutionary about it and yet remains a terrific movie. It's the sort of rock solid base for a film that rarely gets praised - Oscar nomination aside, which was probably a "we like your film, here have a nomination" type of thing more than anything else - and then there's that dialogue. It's easy to pin it all to Julia Roberts, but scenes such as the "which number" scene and memorable lines like "that's all you got lady, two wrong feet and fucking ugly shoes" don't write themselves.

PEOPLE: Pedro Almodóvar
Talk to Her, Bad Education, Volver and Broken Embraces
Now, if All About My Mother were a 2000 release Pedro would be way, way, way higher. If I had to play favourites, I would say Volver and Bad Education were the best, but that's just me. However, after Broken Embraces I think Pedro needs to step out of his box a little bit. I'd love to see him turn his style to a crazy musical or some other genre that he hasn't had a try at yet. What would an Almodóvar horror movie look like? Sexy, one would assume.

CRAFT: Visual Effects
Scott E. Anderson, Craig Hayes, Scott Stokdyk & Stan Parks
Hollow Man
I hated this movie beyond recognisable measures, but good god those visual effects were impressive. Click the image below and you can see how intricate they are.

CRAFT: Costume Design
Jo Thompson
This is England
I spoke earlier about "sense of place" and This is English does such a fantastic job of bringing 1980s Britain to life. The costume work of Jo Thompson was so spot on and precise and accurate that it blew me away.

Played by Sacha Baron Cohen
Borat: Cultural Learnings of American for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
I'm cheating here since Cohen's "Borat" wasn't an original cinematic creation (in the way that Cohen had been playing him for years, not that the character came from another source such as a book), but I - and you - can't deny how big of an impact this character has had on pop culture. Too much, perhaps.

SCENE: "Welcome to the '60s"
I know a lot of people cringe and scream that John Travolta ain't no Divine (and that's true), but that doesn't stop this scene being anything other than truly smile-inducing glee.

PERFORMANCE: Lily Tomlin & Dustin Hoffman
"Vivian and Bernard"
I ♥ Huckabees
These two go together like peas in a pod. Without one the other wouldn't be as fantastic. I've never been a Dustin Hoffman fan at all and yet after this I wanted he and Tomlin to make movie after movie together, solving wacky mysteries and going to exotic cities. Wouldn't that be a hoot?!

DIALOGUE: The 40-Year-Old Virgin
"You're putting the pussy on a pedestal."
One of the five funniest moments of the decade was this line. Sure, the rest of the movie is a riot too, but "pussy on a pedestal" stuck.


In the next installment, No. 200-151 coming as soon as I can, we spend some time in Nazi-occupied France, go to Winnipeg, head on "down to Mexico" and then the centre of the world.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

This is absolutely wonderful. I don't agree with all, I haven't even seen some of the films but when I reached #214 I just had this goofy smile on my face. I think I'm going to go watch Bright Star now, that entire scene is just sooooooo lovely.

I also love #208, #223, #221, #225 and #242 (even if the shot I remember most is Arwen and the Black Riders).

Looking forward to rest...

Brook Brooks said...

I agree with a lot of these, but none more than Sandra Oh. She is way too good for Grey's Anatomy.

J.D. said...

Yes, this is brilliant so far.


Peter Chan said...

Brilliant idea and a brilliant list. I can't wait for the next installment!

Popcorn and Cigarettes said...

Thank you so much for reminding me how brilliant this last decade was. I forgot about a lot of these moments, and your post was a perfect reminder of what I loved so much about the past decade.

I cannot wait for the next installments!

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