Tuesday, April 27, 2010

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

If you haven't read Part I, Part II and part III then you will have no idea what's going on (reading the rules would be beneficial too) so before we continue please do so.

Three Blind Mice
My favourite film of 2009 also had the finest ensemble. Just watch this cast navigate each others' performances and I'm sure you'll agree. Matthew Newton, Toby Schmitz and Ewen Leslie are the three soldiers at the heart of the movie, but alongside them for their last night of shore leave are Gracie Otto (one of the finest discoveries of the decade), Barry Otto, Heather Mitchell, Pia Miranda, Bob Franklin, Tina Bursill, Marcus Graham, Alex Dimitriadis, Brendan Cowell, Eloise Mignon, Jacki Weaver and the late Charles "Bud" Tingwell. If that's not a stellar cast then I don't know what is. Superb.

MUSIC: Original Score
Clint Mansell
Requiem for a Dream
While Mansell's score for Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain is just as good, if not better, it was this work for Aronofsky's first film of the decade (second after Pi from 1998) that is one of the true defining pieces of film score for the decade. If I am remembering correctly, it was the first score soundtrack that I ever purchased (and it was ridiculously expensive too since it was an import) and I listened too it repetitively for months.

DIALOGUE: Open Range
"Men are gonna get killed here today, Sue, and I'm gonna kill 'em"
This just reads (and sounds, as spoken by Kevin Costner in the best western of the decade) as FUCKIN' EPIC, doesn't it? What a classic line of dialogue right there. More Open Range to come, obviously.

EXPERIENCE: Viewing Russian Ark
Perhaps signalling where my desires truly lied within my love of film, in my year 12 Media Studies class we were able to choose between several different projects as our big end of year project. Instead of making a short movie like a few others did, I decided to put together a magazine. Inside were some film reviews and because I wanted to sound intelligent I decided to review Russian Ark, which had come to my town for one week only as part of a special arthouse series of films that had been programmed. Seeing Aleksandr Sokurov's one-take Russian history lesson was truly a sight to behold on the big screen and I have never forgotten it.

Russian Ark ended up staying in my town for several weeks as the film became a minor box office sensation around the country. Who would've predicted that?

TREND: Quentin Tarantino & Sofia Coppola Soundtracks
The Virgin Suicides, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Lost in Translation, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Marie Antoinette, Death Proof & Inglourious Basterds
The trend of "song scores" is definitely one that came to prominence this decade outside of genres that weren't aimed at teen audiences (an audience that has had this trend thrown at them for decades), but it was only with Quentin and Sofia that their soundtrack compilations became must own albums. I can distinctly remember hearing tracks such as Squarepusher's "Tommib" (Lost in Translation) or Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch's "Hold Tight" (Death Proof) for the first time. And who can forget the iconic use of Tomoyasu Hotei's "Battle Without Honor or Humanity" in Kill Bill Vol. 1? These soundtracks have become events in themselves.

EXPERIENCE: Alfonso Cuarón and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Words cannot fully express how happy I was after seeing the third Harry Potter film of the decade. I saw it with friends who had all read the books and liked the first two (I haven't read the books, hated the first two movies) and yet after this one I was the most ecstatic out of all of us. The series has been good lately, but never extraordinary like Azkaban.

CRAFT: The Green Dress
Jacqueline Durran
Do any other costumes from this past decade have their own fan dedication shrine on Facebook (and deserved it)? I can't think of any. I could have put down Durran's entire work as costume designer for Atonement, but it really does all come back to the green dress, doesn't it?

"Terry Ann Wolfmeyer"
The Upside of Anger
Just her name alone brings up images of ravenous wolves, tearing apart unsuspecting prey, which is exactly what Joan Allen does in this criminally undervalued performance as the bitter drunk who falls for another bitter drunk in Kevin Costner. Perhaps it was the fact that film is very middlebrow without any Oscar prestige whatsoever to give it that push (like, for instance, Changeling) to get it noticed, but Allen was astonishing. Props also to her performances in Yes and The Bourne Supremacy.

PERFORMANCE: Marion Cotillard
"Luisa Contini"
It's no secret that I hated La Vie en Rose and thought Cotillard was terrible in it, but with Nine she proved to me at least that there was something there to look forward to. If she keeps giving performances like this then I'll gladly join in the Cotillard fandom that people seemed to get swept up in a few years back.

MUSIC: "Future Markets"
Jonny Greenwood
There Will Be Blood
I'm going to just admit it right now: This is the only spot There Will Be Blood occupies on this countdown. Not even Daniel Day-Lewis could get in, unfortunately. Greenwood's entire score is brilliant, but this piece is the one thing my mind goes to when I think of this movie.

TREND: Asian Cinema
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Still Life, Up the Yangtze, Hero, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Zatoichi, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower, Thirst, Lust, Caution...
My knowledge of Asian film history may be slim, but I think this decade was the first time that Asian cinema really rose to the forefront of international cinema since Akira Kurosawa in the 1950s, am I right? Whether that's true or not, it was certainly a decade where I sat up and took notice. Even when I hated the movies - much loved Audition and Oldboy come to mind - they were still part of a culture that was screaming out for attention. And they got it.

By the way, I am well aware that Up the Yangtze isn't technically an Asian film, but I loved it so much and it fit well in here with its setting and themes. I'd include it in a Canadian cinema trend placing, alas...

MUSIC: Original Score
Thomas Newman
Road to Perdition

MUSIC: "Flame Trees"
Little Fish
A song like Cold Chisel’s “Flame Trees” can never really go out of the public consciousness, but it was so nice to see this bloody brilliant song get a new lease on life thanks to Rowan Woods’ “Little Fish”. First by the Sacred Heart school in Cabramatta during the film and then again by one of the decade’s best new musicians, Sarah Blasko. The movie wasn’t as good as either rendition, but both led the film extra power at crucial times. You can hear the choir version here and Sarah Blasko's here.

CRAFT: Production Design
Peter Grant
There is another production design selection later and, technically, many others deserve to be ranked above Peter Grant's work on Lars Von Trier's Dogville. I do, however, must ask you - did the production design of a film from within 2000-2009 become as talked about, controversial and effective as the one from Dogville? I highly doubt it. For a film with such a literal bare essential look, it gets so much mileage out of it. The production design became one of the most potent images of the decade.

PERFORMANCE: Catherine Zeta-Jones
"Velma Kelly"
Oh yes, I've gone there. Catherine Zeta-Jones gave one of the greatest performances of the decade. One of the best STAR performances, for that matter, and just perfect. She can sing, she can dance and she acts circles around Renee Zellweger and (especially) Richard Gere. She was so good that even at 8.5 months pregnant and on the Oscar stage she was still being incredible as Velma.

CHARACTER: "Paleman"
Played by Doug Jones
Pan's Labyrinth
Certainly one of the most original creations of the decade. Terrifying too!

CHARACTER: "Regina George"
Played by Rachel McAdams
Mean Girls
Yet another iconic character that this decade is better for having.

DIALOGUE: Donnie Darko
"Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion."

PERFORMANCE: Julia Roberts
"Erin Brockovich"
Erin Brockovich
More than just a push-up bra. Better than you remember. Not just "Julia being Julia". Not the worst Oscar winner of all time. etc. I'm not sure how many statements I can make about this truly amazing performance in the face of haters before I just have to give up and admit the fact that people hate her and that because, heaven forbid, her movie came out the same year as Requiem for a Dream it's just unacceptable and unforgivable that she won the Oscar.

SCENE: "Highway to Hell"
Final Destination 2
I have no qualms in saying that Final Destination 2 rocks balls, and the high point was this opening sequence in which death visits a freeway. At least I know if even if nobody else agrees with me that this is one of the decade's best moments then Jason will. The first movie's was good too, but the sequel perfected it.

SHOT: "Ennis"
Brokeback Mountain
I wrote a while ago after Heath Ledger's death that this was the shot that I think best exemplified him. If Ledger hadn't have died then I probably would have chosen another moment/scene/something here in its spot, but as it is my mind goes to this shot. don't ask me why, it just does.

SCENE: "Dream Cheer"
Bring It On
The studio has been effective in disabling embeds from Bring It On for some reason, so I can only link. What an introduction to what I have argued is the greatest sports movie of all time. An instant pop culture moment.

PEOPLE: Cate Blanchett
The Man Who Cried, The Gift, Heaven, Bandits, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Aviator, Coffee & Cigarettes, Little Fish, Babel, The Good German, Notes on a Scandal, Hot Fuzz, I'm Not There, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull & The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ms Blanchett was originally much lower in the rankings until it came to typing out all the above film titles and I realised what an incredible list of films and performances she's had this decade.

PERFORMANCE: Shohreh Aghdashloo
House of Sand and Fog
Pick a moment, any moment, found within Aghdashloo's performance and you'll find a moment that'll tear at your heart. We won't go into one of the worst Oscar decisions of the decade, but needless to say Aghdashloo > Zellweger.

EXPERIENCE: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was such an achievement and just thinking about them and the excitement that came with each new installment makes me go nostalgic (is it considered nostalgic yet? we are into a new decade after all). And to think, I even went to a movie marathon at the cinema with these movies!

DIALOGUE: Vera Drake
"I know why you're here."

CRAFT: Adapted Screenplay
Gus Van Sant
Paranoid Park
If ever you needed a perfect example of teenagers on film from this past decade then I submit Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park. I do not have the time or the space to go into the many, many reasons as to why this screenplay is just so very good, but it is. It's kinda perfect, actually.

SHOT: "Pink Palms"
Mulholland Drive
Consider this: Mulholland Drive was the best movie of the decade in my opinion. I obviously have a couple more slots assigned to it further up the chart, and yet amongst the copious number of scenes, performances, technical achievements and other shots from the film that I could have chosen I went with this. That shows how much I love this single shot. It's hypnotic.

PEOPLE: Christopher Doyle
In the Mood for Love, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Hero, Dumplings, 2046, Lady in the Water & Paranoid Park
And there are so many more that I haven't seen! The eye behind some of the absolute best images of the decade, without a doubt. Anybody who denies this needs to get their eyes tested.

SCENE: "14ème Arrondissement"
Directed by Alexander Payne
The best thing Alexander Payne did this decade was not Sideways, but in fact this short from omnibus film Paris je t'aime. It's beautiful and bittersweet and the sort of thing that the rest of that movie was not. Margo Martindale is spectacular, too. It's lovely.

PERFORMANCE: Peter Marshall
The Horseman
A performance of such brutality and force. I'd never noticed this Australian actor before until I saw this tiny, independent revenge film and I immediately sat up and took notice. He's incredible and I'm so glad that the film has been getting out there when it could have easily slipped through the cracks. Well, technically, it has - it has never received an Australian theatrical release! - but it's out on DVD and in cinemas in several other countries so have a look if it's in yours.

PERFORMANCE: Sally Hawkins
The best performance of 2008 - male or female - was also the most joyous. As someone who finds the kind of people that "Poppy" is to be insufferable in real life, I was amazed at how much I enjoyed Sally Hawkins in Mike Leigh's movie.

SCENE: "Panic Button"
The Cell
The music, the design, the complete and utter strangeness of it all. This moment kinda terrifies me.

PERFORMANCE: Charlize Theron
"Aileen Wuornos"
It's hard to deny that Charlize Theron gave one of the biggest and definitive performances of the decade as serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Yes she went and "uglified" herself, but the performance is so much more than that. I am, however, saying this as a huge fan of the film as a whole, which I know quite a few others are not.

SCENE: "Tyrone Street"
Me and You and Everyone We Know
I love this movie despite how twee and precious and "indie" it is. I think its explorations of these such sad people is far more fascinating than the faux drama of, say, Little Miss Sunshine. This scene perfectly encapsulates everything that's so good about it.

PEOPLE: Penélope Cruz
Volver, Elegy, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Broken Embraces & Nine
Who saw this coming? If your answer is “nobody” then you would be correct. Sure, people will say that they “knew she had it in her” due to her work in the films of her home nation Spain, but anybody who expected the performances that she would give from 2006 onwards is flat out lying. It all started with Volver and we all know the rest. Her best performance, if you ask me, was in Isobel Coixet’s Elegy. It's been a truly myth-making ascent to the top of her craft. Just where did it come from and making her story all the more wonderful is just how truly terrible I and many others thought she was between 2000-2005 in her English language films like Blow.

SCENE: "Rooftop Battle"
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Do you remember how exhilarating it was to see this movie for the time? This first big battle and just having your eyes pop out of their sockets and you being amazed at what was going on? I sure do and it was incredible. If I really wanted to I could include at least two other of the fight sequences, but this one is my favourite and was such a classic moment.

PEOPLE: Harris Savides
Gerry, Elephant, Birth, Last Days, Zodiac, Margot at the Wedding, American Gangster and Milk.
The partnership between cinematographer Harris Savides and director Gus Van Sant has been one of the most magical of the decade. My favourote of their collaborations - generally and cinematography specific - is Elephant, but Savides also helped give Birth real potency and Zodiac, too.

SCENE: "The Second Plane"
United 93
It's a very small moment - I was surprised to find the 30 second grab that I wanted to single out, embedding not allowed - but there it is. The exclamation of "HOLY SHIT" and the stunned silence thereafter.

PERFORMANCE: Toni Collette
"Sandy Edwards"
Japanese Story
The performance of Toni's career, the pinnacle of acting in Australian features for the decade and a truly breathtaking run of emotions from Toni Collette, particularly in the film's final passages, which are enough to send audiences into either stunned silence or a wreck of tears.

MUSIC: "Lose Yourself"
Performed by Eminem
8 Mile
I've mentioned it here on the blog and said it quite a few times on Twitter, Eminem's "Lose Yourself" is the best song to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song this decade. And probably for a while before that, too. Don't care for the man, but the song is genius.

SCENE: "Chapter 9 and ending: In which Dogville receives the long-awaited visit and the film ends"
In spite of the many, many memorable scenes from Lars Von Trier's Dogville - the china doll scene being the main one - my mind always drifts towards this Dogville's final scenes with its back and forth between Nicole Kidman and James Caan as he tries to persuade her away from the evil clutches of Dogville and into the, well, evil clutches of his mafia gang. It's a riveting sequence of dialogue and acting and Kidman's reading of lines such as "if there's any town this world would be better without, this is it" just cuts through the screen. Those final moments are somethin' else!

"Captain Jack Sparrow"
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
An iconic performance by anyone's measure. Johnny Depp became over-saturated, over-loved and a bit too concerned with following Tim Burton's lead into giant, big-budget movies, but for those of us who were fans before The Curse of the Black Pearl, this was like some fantastic unexpected gift from a favourite.

SCENE: "Alien Video"
Weird fact: I love fake news reports in movies. I think it might be because it adds some sort of "reality" to it, I'm not quite sure. It certainly helps in Signs that the first sight of the aliens is done in this way. I get tingles just watching this scene, it gives me the frights.

MUSIC: "Ferris Wheel Love Theme"
This score piece by electronic artist bt is PHE-NOM-E-NAL. It helps that it's an actual score whereas most of these films set in small town USA use the plucking of a guitar string and call it a musical score. The music doesn't seem like it should fit a movie of this kind, but it does and it's beautiful.

SHOT: "Kiss"
Billy Elliot
I know a lot of people didn't like this movie and its, in retrospect to me, off-kilter gay issues, but when I saw Billy Elliot back in the year 2000 when I was, sorry to make some of you feel old, 15 (the same age as Jamie Bell, it must be said, even if the character was 11) and doing the whole "coming out shuffle" and desperate for anything to cling on to I really took to it. Perhaps if I were to watch it for the first time now I wouldn't like it as much, but I'm sure you all have your own coming-of-age tales that never grow old. I remember watching this farewell moment so many times and being in love with it, which is all this countdown is about.

SCENE: "Playing Games"
Previously discussed here, so you know I really like it!

Femme Fatale
An idea so simple and yet so brilliant. Movie trailers already give away far too much of their product these days as it is so why not go one step further into the extreme and give away, quite literally, everything. Show the entire movie from beginning to end in the span of 2 minutes and hope to entice enough people. It helps that the movie the trailer is selling works around the idea that even when you do see the movie you probably don't know what's happened. And I love those slow motion footstep sound effects. Random, I know.

SHORT/MARKETING: "Don't" Trailer
Dir. Edgar Wright
This was by far my favourite of the GrindHouse fake trailers (and the one I'd rather be turned into a feature before Machete or Thanksgiving). It actually does look like one of those old British films with the strange faded blue film and the strange surreal horror, you can just tell it'd be a "video nasty". Everything about it seems so authentic and then the voice over makes it hilarious ("don't look up").

"Ramona Linscott"
The Black Dahlia
How does one describe this performance to someone who has not seen The Black Dahlia? Hell, how does one describe it to someone who has seen The Black Dahlia? There almost is no explanation for it. It exists and it is clinically insane and then the movie ends. I don't even think I honestly know what the hell she's doing, but I do know that I like it.


Join us next time in which we count down the 50 most memorable parts of my cinematic life for the last decade. Find out what scene, person, performance or shot made my #1. See if I give a definitive answer to "Ellen or Bjork in 2000?" See if Laura Dern pops up to frighten the living daylights out of you and hopefully, much like Frank, I just may be a surprise or two in the pipeline.


J.D. said...


I think, if I made a list of my favorite endings of the decade, Dogville could be in my top five? Few endings in general have ever felt as satisfying and exhilarating for me as a viewer. I mean, nearly three hours of watching Grace suffocating in hell, and then having ALL THAT happen? Just, omg. It gives me chills just thinking about it, lol.


Joel said...

Shohreh Aghdashloo... She really was amazing in that film.
Really digging this list man.

Dame James said...

Glenn, I just have to say I really love this series. You are so original and creative. To quote Blanche in some random episode of the Golden Girls, "I hate you, I hate you, drop dead." You make the rest of us look like slackers.

I didn't see Billy Elliot until a couple of years ago and I loved the movie until the ending. I felt like if the movie had stopped right at that beautiful and touching kiss, everything would have been great. I can't think of a sweeter moment in 2000's cinema.

Paul Martin said...

#100: Superb? Agreed.
#86: Are we talking the same film? Catherine Zeta-Jones sing? Dance? Act? Maybe in a parallel universe. One of the few films I've ever walked out on.
#85: Del Toro's films are all flawed but yet compelling, largely because of these amazing worlds and creatures.
#74: Paranoid Park is brilliant and it's gone right over most people's heads. It's not just the screenplay, but also the cinematography, editing and direction. For me, it's also close to perfect. It was the first film I saw three times on the big screen, and it kept getting better with each viewing.
#71: I've watched Paris je t'aime a few times now and while I don't think Payne's piece is anywhere near the best contribution to the collection, it's perfect for the final piece and brings tears to my eyes every time. It was the reason I took up learning French, and this segment is the main contributor. A lot of work awent into piecing each segment together, and I had a blast analysing it from that perspective.
#69: Hawkins performance is wonderful, but it's Leigh's vision that made it happen. I was surprised how much I loved her character - it had all the potential to be painful, but wasn't.
#67: Monster was one of my favourite films of 2004, and Theron's transformation is awesome.
#65: perhaps my biggest disagreement with you. Cruz is the most over-rated actress I can think of and seems to be a one-trick pony. That performance in Elegy (which I hated) is no different to anything else she's done. But that's OK, I know you love her and I think you knew I can't stand her. I do think she's a good actress, but I tire of seeing her always being a sultry and fiery sex-bomb, 'the sexiest woman in the world' - oh per-lease!
#64: CTHD, can't argue that. And what a film for great female roles.
#63: Elephant was my favourite film of 2004, but I think the cinematography of Last Days is at least as good.
#61: I love Collette and her performance in the film is excellent, but over-acted. I don't think it's her fault but, rather, the direction.

Popcorn and Cigarettes said...

Oh man, oh man, your list is absolutely amazing, and if it is this good now, I wonder how the Top 50 will shape up!

Oh and thank you, thank you, thank you for including Shohreh Aghdashloo in your list! I think she, and the performance, are totally underrated.

Glenn said...

Paul, I thought even those who didn't like Chicago enjoyed Catherine Z. Oh well. And in regards to Paranoid Park's cinematography, Christopher Doyle is ranked in this piece and I think it's a safe bet to assume Gus Van Sant will rank as a decade-spanning choice so, yes, you're right. It is all those things that make Paranoid Park so good.

James, I totally agree. That silly end with the friend showing up with the boyfriend and meeting the dad and... ugh. I turn the movie off before that scene. Very Dancer in the Dark of me.

Joel, thanks. I'm hanging out for The Stoning of Soroya M, which is finally out here at the end of May.

JD, isn't the end of Dogville just that. So satisfying and complete. I think it helps that the movie is 2.5hrs long and so that conclusion, which you know is coming, just packs such a punch.

Mickche said...

love Aghdashloo, that voice always gets me. I liked her also in The Excorcism of Emily Rose.

Really,the best part of Little Fish was the performances equaled with Flame Trees. A beautiful song and great in the film.

Zev Valancy said...

Fiona Shaw is a great actress, and that performance is completely inexplicable. And I love it desperately for the fact that there is no excuse for it.

(I've also met her and she's utterly magnetic in person. You can't not look at her. I wish I'd seen her live in "Mother Courage.")

Andrew said...

Awesome list! Ive never heard of a bunch of them but the ones I recognize are great nonetheless. Im glad that you included mentions of both the music to The Fountain, which is one of my favorite scores ever, and The Curse of the Golden Flower, which is definitely one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen. Though, I guess if you're mentioning them now the wont be coming back later which is sad :(

Cant wait to see more though!

Ben said...

Way to go- I love this series and wish I had thought of it...

99. Requiem score. Have you noticed how often it is used in other trailers?

73. Pink Palms. Mulholland is probably my 2nd favorite of the decade, and that shot says so much about the movie.

71. 14eme. This was so beautiful (and so much better than the rest of the film).

69. Poppy. I'm a teacher, and on my bad days I try to remember to be more like her....

64. Rooftop Battle. Crouching Tiger was easily one of the most exhilarating movie experiences.

One quibble.... I never fell in love with Pirates or Depp's performance in it. Not sure why.

notanotherblog said...

91. My favourite track in that soundtrack is "Prospectors Quartet." God I need to watch that movie again.

Rob T. said...

I've enjoyed your comments on everything else in this series so far, but why none for Thomas Newman's Road to Perdition score? Since I'd have an entry for "Thomas Newman scores" for the whole decade in my own version of this list, I'm curious as to why you singled out this one.