Giant-Size JET #1 - The 100 Best Movies of the 00s, Part 4
Theda B. Geer
1925 - 2010
70. Lost In La Mancha (2002)
Terry Gilliam is one of the most creative filmmakers of all time but occasionally, his pursuit of that vision blinds him to cold, hard reality. Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe’s documentary follows Gilliam’s ill-fated attempt at shooting one of his dream projects, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. The result is one of the most insightful looks at filmmaking ever captured as obstacle after obstacle, some avoidable and some not, blindside Gilliam at every turn. For aspiring filmmakers, Lost In La Mancha is a must-see. It’s a veritable crash course in how not to make a movie.
69. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
If all this movie had going for it was the superb, rich, black-and-white cinematography of Roger Deakins, it would probably still deserve a place on this list. But Joel and Ethan Coen’s low-key neo-noir lodges in your brain like a stealth missile. It’s not the first movie I think of when I want to watch a Coen Brothers picture. But any time it’s on, I find I can’t tear myself away. Billy Bob Thornton, taking a break from the ill-mannered drunks he spent most of the decade playing, gives a performance of such intensity and stillness that he commands your attention. The Man Who Wasn’t There takes its time but eventually reveals itself as an endlessly fascinating drama and a worthy addition to the ranks of classic film noir.
68. Suicide Club (2001)
When you’ve seen a lot of movies, even the best ones have a slight air of predictability. Shion Sono’s Suicide Club surprises at every turn. The movie starts off with a bang as 54 Japanese schoolgirls leap in front of a subway train, resulting in an ocean of blood and gore. If you don’t find this scene hilarious, you are not the audience for this film. The movie gets grislier and weirder as it goes along, as a rash of suicides sweep the country, coinciding with the rise in popularity of a bubblegum pop girl group called Dessert. Suicide Club obviously isn’t for everybody. Honestly, the first time I saw it there were times when I had no idea what was going on. But even when I was lost, I was loving it. Shion Sono’s movie is a twisted, bloody delight.
67. The Lives Of Others (2006)
In addition to having the longest and coolest name of any filmmaker on this list, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck made one of the most impressive feature debuts with The Lives Of Others. The movie works as a suspenseful political thriller, vividly depicting life in 80s-era East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. But what elevates it into something special is the performance of Ulrich Mühe as a surveillance agent who becomes increasingly absorbed in the lives of the couple he’s investigating. It’s an indelible portrait of a solitary man defined by duty.
66. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
I don’t think anyone would deny that Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a staggeringly gorgeous film. But so are Zhang Yimou’s Hero, House Of Flying Daggers and Curse Of The Golden Flower and none of them are on this list. The images in Ang Lee’s film aren’t merely pretty. They’re epic, tied inexorably to the emotions of the love story at the movie’s heart. Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh are both wonderful but it’s Zhang Ziyi who shines brightest.
65. Amelie (2001)
I tried for years to resist the charms of this movie. Everyone I knew simply fell in love with it and assured me I would as well. So, out of sheer contrariness, I simply refused to watch it despite the fact that I was a fan of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. When I finally gave in and watched it, I was determined to be the lone stick in the mud that points out what treacle it really is. That lasted about five minutes. Hating Amelie is kind of like coming across a basket of fuzzy kittens and fluffy puppies and kicking it into the sewer. I guess it’s physically possible but you’d have to be the worst kind of bastard to do it. Amelie is a genuinely delightful movie, warm, funny, romantic and a celebration of everything that’s good about humanity.
64. The Happiness Of The Katakuris (2001)
Although it wasn’t released in America until 2001, Takashi Miike’s Audition will not be appearing on this list because it’s technically a 1999 film. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. Well actually, I guess I do and that’s why I’m following them. Anyway, if Audition was eligible, it’d be in the top ten. Miike made so many movies in the past ten years that it was virtually impossible to keep up with all of them. Even so, I’d be surprised if he made anything else even remotely like The Happiness Of The Katakuris, a horror-comedy-musical-love story randomly punctuated by claymation. The life-affirming story of a family whose mountain inn becomes a death magnet, the movie is deliriously funny, wildly imaginative and as strange as they come. I think it’s safe to say you’ve never seen anything quite like this one.
63. Session 9 (2001)
With a few exceptions, this past decade wasn’t a particularly great one for horror movies. The genre was popular enough but dominated by too many remakes, imitators, sequels and Saw/Hostel-type movies (I don’t much care for the term “torture porn”, so I try to avoid using it to describe them). Brad Anderson’s Session 9 was a welcome relief from all that. Five men go into an abandoned mental hospital on an asbestos-removal job. Not all of them come out. Session 9 creeps under your skin and stays there, building the tension through mood, atmosphere, eerie visuals and fine performances. It’s pretty easy to scare an audience. Session 9 does something much trickier. It unsettles you.
62. Bowling For Columbine (2002)
Love him or hate him, you definitely have an opinion about Michael Moore. And he wouldn’t generate such fervently held, polarizing beliefs if he wasn’t doing his job correctly. While Moore’s later films relied too heavily on his slightly patronizing “Sad Michael” voice (and that includes Fahrenheit 9/11, which I otherwise think is an exceptional piece of work), Bowling For Columbine has him doing what he does best. Moore asks a fair question: what’s behind America’s national obsession with firearms? He then allows that question to take him wherever it may lead, arguing his points in the most sensationalistic way he can. His methods probably won’t win over any new converts but I don’t think they’re meant to. He’s simply trying to get people talking. By that measure, Bowling For Columbine is a roaring success.
61. Brand Upon The Brain! (2006)
If you were lucky enough to see Guy Maddin’s fascinating silent spectacle theatrically, it’s probably one of the most unforgettable cinema experiences you’ve ever had. Even without live accompaniment by an orchestra, narrator and foley effects artists, it’s a rare treat. A fantasia on memory, family, life and death, Brand Upon The Brain! is a unique vision and a wonderful reminder of the endless possibilities of movies.
Join me here for 10 more of the 100 Best Movies of the 00s, including not one, not two but four animated movies! Hey, everybody loves cartoons, right?