Sunday, January 03, 2010
Top Films of the Decade - #30-21...
30. Death at a Funeral – 2007 – Frank Oz
This is a strange animal, a British film starring British actors, yet directed by a very American Frank Oz. It also stars some American actors in English roles and everyone’s favorite little person (sorry Billy Barty) Peter Dinklage. The film came and went in the theatre and no one seemed to notice, but it has found a bit of a second life on DVD and cable TV. I guess someone liked it other than me because there is already an African-American skewed remake coming out this spring with Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence. Oddly, Peter Dinklage will be playing the same character in the remake. Anyway, Death at a Funeral is a very funny, very English comedy and is one of the few slapstick comedies made in this decade that doesn’t overly rely on making references to other movies and crass humor. Wow, did I just become a prude?!
29. Kung Fu Hustle – 2004 – Stephen Chow
Kung Fu Hustle may be the funniest martial arts film I have ever seen. It is so original and fresh, something that is hard to come by in this well-worn genre. There is amazing choreography, camera work, art direction and performances, especially that of Qui Yuen as the “Landlady.” Her comic look with curlers in her hair and fuzzy slippers is offset by the crazy yelling kung fu technique that she uses. Another great performance comes from Stephen Chow, the director and writer of the film. He plays “Sing,” a low-level criminal wannabe who has the power inside to become “The One.” Sing is such a screw up that it is hard to believe that he becomes the master of the Buddha Palm. The film really must be seen to be appreciated. I recommend the Blu Ray edition, one of the prettiest transfers out there!
28. Hors de Prix (Priceless) – 2007 – Pierre Salvadori
Audrey Tautou strikes again in this tale of a gold digger working her way through the south of France when she meets her match in a hapless bartender and reluctantly falls in love. Another of the great films screened at the 2007 COLCOA festival, “Hors de Prix” is an old fashioned romantic comedy and owes a lot of its success to Gad Elmaleh. His portrayal of “Jean” is both comically inept and vulnerable, and provides the pillar on which the film is built. There is a magic chemistry between Tautou and Elmaleh and you can’t help but smile when they are sharing barbs onscreen. It is actually a very accessible film, available on DVD and low cost Blu Ray in America, so go out and get it.
27. Marie Antoinette – 2006 – Sofia Coppola
This film is a divider of people. Some who saw it loved it and a great number of people didn’t care for it at all. For me, it is a remarkably ambitious, understated achievement. I love it for so many reasons, art direction, the subtle camerawork of Lance Acord, the modern score that accentuates every scene of the film and sense of melancholy that runs through the whole film. Then again, all I needed to see was the birthday scene set to the strains of New Order’s “Ceremony” and I was completely hooked.
26. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – 2007 – Jake Kasdan
“How do you feel about my music, Mr. Time Magazine?!” How did this get so high on the list? Is that what you are asking yourself? Well, I love it pure and simple. It is such an absurd movie and it has some of the funniest things I have seen in a long time. Who can take John C. Reilly serious ever again? I sure can’t! From the moment he utters, “I’m thinkin’ I might like to try me some of that cuckaine” all the way to the moment where he cringes after happening upon the Temptations, it is so brilliant. I have watched it at least 60 times on cable and it is ALWAYS funny. “Hello, Darlene. How’s Glen Campbell?”
25. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 2004 – Alfonso Cuaron
Let me start by saying that I am a fan of Harry Potter. However, I didn’t take much notice to the film series until this entry came along. Gone are the whimsical sweet shops and childlike musings of Christopher Columbus (Spielberg lite), they have been replaced by a filmmaker of vision and skill. Alfonso Cuaron took this series to the next level and delivered what is considered “The Empire Strikes Back” of the Harry Potter franchise. It is a smart, sophisticated, clever, and scary film that embraces a much darker tone and I am thankful for that. If you have not seen it, you should. And NO, I don’t have a Sirius Black action figure.
24. Hyakuman-en to Nigamushi Onna (One Million Yen and the Nigamushi Woman) – 2008 – Yuki Tanada
This movie speaks to me on many levels. It is a lovely, delicate film, but it is also very painful and heartbreaking. It has a wonderful sense of quiet and is as melancholy a film you will see. Aoi Yu stars as a young woman named Suzuko, who has just been released from jail and is forced to live back with her parents. However, the disgrace of her crime (though justified) causes her family shame and it is no longer viable for her to live with them. She decides to leave town and takes as many odd jobs she can to save up a million yen ($10,000) to embark on the journey. This journey will lead her to several different places, but she can never really seem to escape the past she is running from. I just couldn’t be a bigger fan of this movie and I hope that everyone out there will find it and watch it.
23. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – 2003 – Peter Weir
Peter Weir is a director of great talent and vision. He has made some of my favorite films (Gallipoli, Witness, The Year of Living Dangerously) and this one is certainly up there. Based on the brilliant series of books by Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander is as fine a seaward adventure film as has ever been made, and was one of the most costly films ever produced. I have watched this film numerous times and it never ceases to thrill me. I especially love the sequences filmed at the Galapagos. It has such lyrical beauty, something rarely captured on film.
22. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – 2007 – Andrew Dominik
This movie transcends the level of ordinary film and places you in an era so meticulously designed, you almost feel as if you are really in the turn-of-the-century south. It is a true snapshot of Americana and has some of the most beautiful photography of any movie this decade. Brad Pitt delivers a fine performance of subtlety and fury, while Casey Affleck is so good I can’t really think of words to describe it. I just know that I watched with total fascination and didn’t even realize the film was three hours long. I could have watched it for several hours more.
21. Brideshead Revisited – 2008 – Julian Jarrold
Nothing says Darrick quite like a movie about cold, English repression, and this new adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel doesn’t disappoint. There is a sadness running through this movie that I am drawn to, a cold sense of regret and sorrow. Why I like stories like that, I am not sure, but I just do. I know many people loved the miniseries, but this film offers so much more as far as I am concerned. Moreover, the use of one of the most beautiful properties in the world can’t hurt either. I know if I were Charles Ryder, I would do what I could to obtain the Lady Julia and that house! All I can say is that Brideshead is a sumptuous film and made me want to unleash the turn-of-the-century fancy lad lurking within!